Monday, September 21, 2009

Sea Creatures You Can Touch

On a rainy August day, we waded in the salt marsh, and played with hermit crabs.

Hermit crabs are so funny. They hide when you pick them up. Then, if all is still, they poke their little eye stalks out and look around suspiciously. All of the sudden their legs come out and they run. Don't drop them!

On a sunny day, we explored tidal pools near the crashing waves.

Mussels live packed close together in the tidal pools, which are teeming with periwinkle, baby crabs, and seaweeds. Mussels are delicious to eat.

We found some sea stars. This one is sidling off into a shadow in a tidal pool. Do you know how the sea star moves about?

Turn her over gently and look at the thousands of tube feet. Touch some tube feet lightly with your finger. You will feel a wee bit of suction. The sea star can use this suction to slowly move, or to pry open a clam shell. That is something a person does not have the strength to do.

We explored a wild and windy beach another day. We found an empty skate egg case. We call this a Devil's Pocketbook. What do you call it where you live?

We also found many horseshoe crabs stranded on the shore. If they were still alive, we put them in the surf. Do you see the pointy tail? It is not for stinging. It is to use as a lever if the horseshoe crab gets turned over on its back, and for steering in the water.

The horseshoe crab is a "living fossil," a very ancient sea creature. There were horseshoe crabs swimming around in the oceans during the Triassic period, when dinosaurs were alive.

These adorable little animals are called mole crabs. It is fun to play with them. You can find them under the wet sand where the waves wash in. They are very quick diggers and good swimmers. These funny little mole crabs are trying to dig down between my daughter's fingers to get away. Once in a while you will find one with bright orange eggs on its underbelly.

We watched some underwater barnacles yesterday. Each had a beautiful frond-like arm sticking out, waving in the water, pulling tiny plankton inside.

Periwinkles are everywhere. They love to collect in huge clusters on rocky shores, where they move about slowly, eating algae and barnacle larvae. In the spring the rocky beaches are full of millions of periwinkle eggs. The common periwinkle is edible, but we haven't tried them yet.

When a hermit crab outgrows its shell, it finds an empty periwinkle shell to move into. Wherever there are periwinkles, there are hermit crabs nearby.


Lisa said...

It looks like you had a great time! We love tidepools! Those horse shoe crabs are so amazing! I've never seen one up close.
Have a great week!

Beth said...

Thanks, Lisa! You have a great week, too!

Sara said...

Hi Beth,
I just learned so much from this wonderful post! We live in the mountains....far from the sea, so we don't ever get to explore places like this. My boys will love it! Looks like you had a lovely summer! Thanks for sharing!

Beth said...

We do feel lucky to live within driving distance of the sea. There are so many touchable animals and we have so much fun exploring and learning.

gardenmama said...

the ocean is an amazing classroom!
i love the things you have found and your appreciation for sea life.