Tag Archive: tidepool

Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Gastropoda (slugs, snails, nudibranchs, abalone)
Order: Archaeogastropoda (sea snails)
Family: Haliotidae (abalones)

Genus/species: Haliotis rufescens

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: The red abalone is a large limpet-like snail with a flattened and rounded shell. The shell can reach up to 30 cm (11.8 in) in length and is usually brick-red and overgrown with fouling organisms. Color varies with diet and varies between aquamarine, green, or white. Water enters anteriorly through row of holes parallel to the rim of the shell and exits posteriorly carrying waste products and gametes. When in danger, the abalone clamps its shell tightly to the substrate, protecting soft parts of its body. The shell’s color is influenced by the animal’s diet. The red color is from the pigment phycoerythrin consumed in its red alga diet. Color varies with a diet of brown algae (varies between aquamarine, green, or white).

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Red abalone are found from Oregon to Baja California. They are uncommon in the lower intertidal zone in rocky areas with heavy surf. Most are now found at six to 17 m (20 to 56 ft) depth in central California.


DIET IN THE WILD: Small abalones feed on diatoms and algae; larger animals browse the seaweeds. Red abalone eat algae, especially red and brown species. Usually foraging at night, they trap drifting pieces of algae (kelp) with the tentacles that extend from the foot. The algae is then carried by the foot to the mouth, and is torn and consumed with by the radula.

flickr Feeding Video http://www.flickr.com/photos/cas_docents/6393536637/in/set-72157626486149324


PREDATORS: Sea stars, crabs, octopuses, sea otters and human divers are among the abalone’s primary predators.

REPRODUCTION: After spawning takes place, fertilized eggs sink. Larvae develop in the plankton until they settle to the bottom, metamorphose, and begin to graze. Growth slows with increasing size and age. Mortality is very high in the planktonic stages. Mature individuals can live more than 20 years.

REMARKS: Red abalone are highly endangered due to overexploitation by the abalone fishery. The population plummeted in the late twentieth century, but poaching continues to be a problem. California passed many strict regulations to protect the red abalone: abalone smaller than 20 cm (8 in) in diameter are protected, the canning of abalone is prohibited, and the shipment of fresh or frozen meat out of California is prohibited. Red abalone is the only species that can still be fished. Aquacultured abalone is now increasingly available.

Abalone blood is blue-green and cannot clot making injury possibly fatal.

Red Abalone Shell19600303421_7eae835178_z

Color of Life note: Iridescence is caused by two or more semi-transparent, inorganic and/or organic surfaces that cause multiple light reflections. An example found in our tidepool is the Red Abalone inner shell surface which produces an impressive vibrant luster when exposed to light.  The aragonite and conchiolin secreted by the abalone in forms a crystalline structure that reflects light, causing the shell’s iridescence. The inner surface of the shell is known as mother-of-pearl, or nacre. Ref: California Academy of Sciences, Color of Life Exhibit 2015   Jewelry is still made from abalone shells and is quite popular.                        Ref: www.best-deal.com/search/landing/query/red+abalone+shells...


Other references

Marine Biology Coloring book, T.M. Nielsen, 2nd Ed. Harper Resource 1982, 2000.

Encyclopedia of Life  eol.org/pages/620396/details

Monterey Bay Aquarium  www.montereybayaquarium.org/animal-guide/invertebrates/ab…

California Fish and Game www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/pdfs/response/abalone.pdf

Ron’s flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/cas_docents/6393536637/in/album-72157608597736188/


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Echinodermata
Class: Holothuroideaia
Order: Aspidochirotida
Family: Stichopodidae

Genus/species: Parastichopus parvimensis

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Colored brown above, lighter below. Conical black-tipped papillae on the dorsal side provide the common name. The mouth and anus are on opposite ends of their cylindrical bodies. Tube feet aide in gathering food as well as ambulating.Length to 25 cm (10 inches). 

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Monterey Bay, California to Baja California. Found on sandy or muddy-sandy soft bottoms between rocks or in eelgrass beds. Sub tidal to 27 m (89 feet) in depth.

DIET: Digests organic detritus and small organisms in soft sediments.

REPRODUCTION?DEVELOPMENT: Have separate sexes (look-alike), and eggs are fertilized externally. Broadcast spawning usually takes place in November, and each female can produce thousands of eggs. After fertilization, a larva is formed which metamorphoses into a Sea Cucumber after a few weeks.

MORTALITY/LONGEVITY: Eaten by sea stars including the sunflower star. Sea otters and humans are also predators. Lifespan estimated to be 5-10 years in the wild.

CONSERVATION: IUCN Red list; Not Evaluated

REMARKS: Holothuroids differ from echinoderms, because they have a water vascular system full of body fluid rather than sea water.  Like other echinoderms, cucumbers have a calcareous skeleton; but in their case it is only vestigial, composed of plates and spicules of lime buried in the skin and serving merely to stiffen the body wall. Respiratory trees are the lungs of a sea cucumber. These hollow branched organs lie inside the body cavity on either side of the posterior intestine. The base of the tree connects to a muscular cavity, or cloaca. Oxygen is transferred across the thin membrane into the fluids of the body cavity. When the oxygen is depleted, the main body wall contracts to squeeze water out of the trees. 
When threatened, it can expel all its internal organs through its anus (evisceration) and grow new ones in 2-4 weeks. It can also expel sticky filaments to ensnare or confuse predators. Warty sea cucumbers and their related species are sometimes called the “earthworms of the sea,” as they cultivate the seafloor in much the same manner as earthworms cultivate the soil. Oral tube feet around the mouth are covered with a sticky mucus that traps food particles from the seafloor’s sediment and mud. In areas where overfishing has reduced the population of sea cucumbers, the seafloor hardens, thus destroying a habitat for other bottom-dwelling creatures. Can walk on tube feet if stressed up to one yard every 15 min..Humans eat a variety of sea cucumber species, including Warty sea cucumbers. The demand is greatest in Asian countries, for consumption and folk medicine applications. It is considered to be widely overfished.




Parastichopus parvimensisIMG_8852 - Version 2



ADW Animal Diversity Web, U. of Michigan  http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Parastichopus_parvimensis/

Encyclopedia of Life  eol.org/pages/597920/details

Monterey Bay Aquarium  www.montereybayaquarium.org/animal-guide/invertebrates/wa…

Ron’s flickr  https://www.flickr.com/photos/cas_docents/3702926813/in/set-72157608501343477

 Ron’s WordPress Shortlink  wp.me/p1DZ4b-s6



KINGDOM      Animalia

PHYLUM        Arthropoda  (External skeleton, segmented body and jointed appendages)

SUBPHYLUM  Crustacea

CLASS          Malacostraca

ORDER         Decapoda  (ten legged)

FAMILY        Hippidae  (mole crabs or sand crabs)

GENUS/SPECIES  Emerita analoga



 Grey or sand colored exoskeleton without spines or claws.  The eyes are on long stalks and the antennae are also elongated so as to project above the surface of the sand. The legs and uropods have hairy margins to assist in digging and for use in collecting food and transferring it to the mouth.  The first pair of antennae reach above the sand for respiration, and the second pair, resembling feathers, are extended when the crab feeds. The female is nearly twice as large as the male up to 35 mm  (1.4 in) long and 25 mm (1.0 in) wide.

The sand crab always moves backwards when burrowing or crawling.


Pacific coast from Alaska to Baja California in the northern hemisphere and between Ecuador and Argentina in the southern hemisphere. E. analoga live in the swash zone (area of breaking waves) of the sandy beach intertidal zone.


Antennae collect small organisms, mostly dinoflagellates which are brought to the mouth and consumed.


During the reproductive season (February-October), females can produce one clutch per month of 50-45,000 eggs, which take approximately 30 days to develop. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae are planktonic for 4-5 months.


Fish, water birds, and shorebirds.

The barred surfperch is a very common fish in the surf zone, and sand crabs have been found to make up 90% of its diet.

Emerita analoga are  also used as bait by fishermen.



Sand crabs are known to carry parasites. They are an intermediate host of parasitic worms which are passed on to the predators of sand crabs. Sea otters and birds can eat many crabs per day, and the ingested parasites have been known to kill these predators.

Researchers monitor levels of DDT and domoic acid (a diatome neurotoxin) on a regular basis to assess the health of the ocean.


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Kingdom:  Animalia

Phylum:     Arthopoda

Class:          Malacostraca

Order:        Decapoda

Family:      Epialtidae

Genus/species;  Pugettia producta



 Mostly dark brown to green varying depending on the type of algae consumed. Like other members of its family, noted for its unique, elongated carapace with extended rostrum like an upside down shovel with the handle end towards its mouth. and four pairs of relatively long, slender walking legs. Because of these features, the family common name is “spider crabs.”

Most crabs in this family are called masking crabs; they attach fragments of shells and algae to their carapace for camouflage. P.producta, a large active crab, maintains a clean surface, perhaps for ease of movement.  It is a feisty animal; long legs are dextrous, and claws pinch hard.


 Alaska to Baja California in rocky intertidal in kelp beds and tidepools with abundant surfgrass or algae.  The crab uses the vegetation as protection from  sun and predators. Subtidal to 70 m (230 ft).


Mainly a nocturnal vegetarian feeding on bull kelp, sea lettuce, rockweed and other kelp. Occasionally will take barnacles, mussels, hydroids, and bryozoans in winter when vegetation is scarce.


Reproduction and Development: Females usually mate June to July, though can mate year round. Fertilized eggs develop for several months underneath the female’s abdomen.



Preyed upon by sculpins, gulls, cabezon, and sea otters among others.


Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/cas_docents/sets/72157626486149324/

WORDPRESS SHORTLINK  http://wp.me/p1DZ4b-xc

Phylum Chordata (chordates)

Class Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes) 
Order Perciformes (Perch-likes) 

Family Embiotocidae (Surfperches) 

Genus/species Micrometrus minimus 


DISTRIBUTION: Northern British Columbia to central Baja California. 

 HABITAT: Among giant kelp, usually in kelp canopy.

 DIET: Algae and small invertebrates

 REPRODUCTION and DEVELOPMENT: Viviparous ( Livebearer), female carries the developing young. Breed in fall and early winter, spawn in spring.

LOCATION: Salt Marsh Pop_up CC03 and Tidepool CC15  

 flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/cas_docents/sets/72157626486149324/

WORDPRESS SHORTLINK:  http://wp.me/p1DZ4b-wQ

Class: Actinopterygii, Order: Scorpaeniformes,  Family: Cottidae ( Sculpins)

Oligocottus snyderi 

DISTRIBUTION: Endemic to the Pacific Coast from Alaska to Baja California.

HABITAT: Temperate rocky intertidal pools, especially those with algae or eelgrass and asandy substrate. They don’t migrate but do move between pools. In Central California, dominant in sub- to mid-intertidal pools.

APPEARANCE: Coloration varies greatly from green to reddish brown to pink, depending on the color of the surrounding algae; sides spotted and mottled. Like many sculpins, they have no scales. Cirri line the base of the dorsal fin and the lateral line. The common name refers to a “fluffy” fleshy area behind the dorsal fin. Max. length: 9 cm (3.50 in); average weight: 8 g (0.28 oz). 

DIET: Worms, crustaceans, and other marine invertebrates.

REPRODUCTION: Males use claspers during intercourse for internal fertilization. Eggs are deposited on rocks, and are guarded by the males. O. Synderi develops through larval, post larval, juvenile and adult stages.

REMARKS: Can breathe air for hours at a time, often in response to reduction in the tide pool’s oxygen at night .

LOCATION: Tidepool  CC15

Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/cas_docents/sets/72157608359804936/

WORDPRESS SHORTLINK:  http://wp.me/p1DZ4b-vX

Family Poraniidae 

Dermasterias imbricate

DISTRIBUTION: Eastern North Pacific: Alaska to Northern California. 

HABITAT: On rocks and rocky reefs in subtidal areas.  APPEARANCE: Medium size sea star up to 5 Iin or 12 cm in diameter with disproportionately short broad arms with a smooth, slippery surface. Mottled coloring—bluish-grey with brown to orange blotches all over.  Oral side pale and smooth. Smells garlic-like.  

DIET: Mainly sea anemones, but also takes sea cucumbers, sea urchins, and other invertebrates. Leather stars, unlike many other sea stars, such as the ochre, bat, and pink sea stars, swallow their prey whole and digest internally. 

REPRODUCTION/DEVELOPMENT: Releases eggs and sperm; fertilized eggs float in plankton and develop into juveniles, which eventually settle out.

REMARKS: Known to eat the Plumose Anemone (Metridium senile and Metridium farcimen), and the Strawberry Anemone Corynactis californica.

Larger anemones have been observed to fight back by distending the mouth to envelope the attacking star. In the end the leather star often retreats and both the star and the anemone are none the worse for wear. 


LOCATION: Tidepool  CC15    **DisplayIntermittent 

WORDPRESS SHORTLINK   http://wp.me/p1DZ4b-u0

flickr    http://www.flickr.com/photos/cas_docents/sets/72157608501343477/

Phylum Echinodermata, Class Asteroidea, Order Forcipulatida, Family Asteriidae, 

Pisaster gianteus


DISTRIBUTION: Eastern Pacific coast from British Columbia to Baja California.

HABITAT: Rocky but also sandy substrates from middle to lower intertidal zone down to 300 ft or 90 m.

APPEARANCE: Five arms. Can be colored red, orange, brown, or green. Evenly spaced blunt white stubby spines surrounded by blue plaques.  Maximum arm span about 24 in or 60 cm.

DIET: Typical prey are hard-shelled organisms such as mussels, snails, and barnacles. May occasionally eat anything slow-moving enough to be caught, such as dying fish or shellfish, anenomes, or other sea stars.

REPRODUCTION and DEVELOPMENT: Individual sea stars are male or female. Broadcast spawners, both sexes release gametes into the water for external fertilization. Larvae are planktonic and have bilateral symmetry.

MORTALITY/LONGEVITY: Sea gulls and sea otters are sea star predators. Giant sea stars live about 20 years.


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flickr  http://www.flickr.com/photos/cas_docents/sets/72157608501343477/

Phylim Molluska, Class Gastropoda, Family ‪Aeolidioidea,

Aeolidia papillosa


DISTRIBUTION: Common on the Atlantic coast of Europe and North America and the Pacific coast of North America. Also from from both west and east coasts of South America

HABITAT: On rocks, or may be on floats or docks. Often near its perferred prey. Intertidal to 380m deep.

APPEARANCE: Its color appears to be quite variable, depending upon locale and food resources. This large aeolid grows to about 10 cm (4 in)  in length and its body is covered with close obliquely arranged rows of flattened cerata.

DIET: Feeds almost exclusively on sea anemones.

MORTALITY/LONGEVITY:  This species is famous for obtaining undischarged cnidae (cells which bear nematocysts) from its Cnidarian prey and moving to the tips of the cerata , where they are likely used for defense. If disturbed they sometimes wave their cerata. If one of the cerata is broken off, muscles within it contract, expelling the nematocysts, which then discharge . The chemical composition of A. papillosa mucus changes and does not trigger a discharge of nematocysts in the sea anemone.

REPRODUCTION/DEVELOPMENT: Nudibranchs are hermaphroditic, and thus have a set of reproductive organs for both sexes, but they cannot fertilize themselves.

REMARKS: Their eyes are simple and able to discern little more than light and dark. The eyes are set into the body, are about a quarter of a millimeter in diameter, and consist of a lens and five photoreceptors.

 WORDPRESS SHORTLINK: http://wp.me/p1DZ4b-sk


Phylum Molluska, Order: Veneroida, Class: Bivalvia, Family: Veneridae

Venerupis philippinarum

DISTRIBUTION: Native to Japan, Korea and China.  Introduced to British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Baja California and French Atlantic Coast, and Mediterranean coast..

APPEARANCE: Shell is usually cream or gray, sometimes with green or brown tones, and sometimes stained rusty or black (the latter typical of anoxic mud). It often has patterns of dark brown or black, overlapping, triangular markings  Smaller specimens (up to about 3 cm)  found in muddy sand on the east shore of  San Francisco Bay come in a remarkable variety of hues, including white, tan, yellow, blue and green, The interior of the shell is mostly white, often with dark purple or yellow staining near the hind end and the lower margins of the shell.

DIET: Filter feeder

REMARKS: Global aquaculture production of V. philippinarum is estimated at over 1 million tons/year with a value of around $1.5 billion.

MORTALITY: A variety of organisms have been observed feeding on Venerupis philippinarum on the Pacific coast, including the moon snail Euspira lewisii, the Atlantic oyster drill Urosalpinx cinerea, crabs, bat rays, flounder, sturgeon, willet, gulls, ducks and raccoons, and undoubtedly many others. The small pea crabs Pinnixa faba and Pinnixa littoralis are sometimes found living inside the shells of live Venerupis philippinarum.

At the Steinheart Aquarium V. philippinarum is found in the tidepool where starfishes feed on them in place of mussels which are harder to obtain.   SEE PHOTO BELOW . 

Ochre Sea Star Pisaster ochraceus consuming a Manila Clam.

WORDPRESS SHORTLINK http://wp.me/p1DZ4b-rY

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