Sunday, June 13, 2010

Creative camouflage

Second half of our Stories Beach finds:

Coralline algae

We kept finding these little pink and white branches, mostly well hidden under other seaweeds. Most were under an inch tall; these were among the largest. They weren't the only pink stuff; many rocks have a coating of a bright pink "paint" with white edges. These are the appropriately-named "Pink Rock Crusts", algae related to the corallines.

Pink rock crust. The rock almost disappears under this and other coatings, red and brown, and bits of green sea lettuce.

Most of the animals here are carefully camouflaged. Even this one:

Lined chiton, Tonicella lineata

I had seen this in my books, but never thought I would ever find one. I flipped over a rock encrusted with a red alga, and there it was. Laurie and I did the beachcombers version of the lifer dance; we hunkered down on the wet rocks waving the cameras about and trying to keep our shadows out of the way. I kept flipping the rock; the chiton moved faster than I would have imagined for a creature that sticks to the rock, snail-like.

And yes, the pink pattern serves as camouflage; the lined chiton eats algae, in this case, the pink and red encrusting algae on these rocks. Lined chitons wear the colours of their surroundings, whether purple, black, yellow, red or pink.

More red tones; the carapace of a red rock crab.

Even the barnacles here have touches of pink. Also present: mussels, stubby isopods and a few larger black isopods, small black snails.

The larger isopods are the same species as the green one I posted the other day; they are all over the upper intertidal zone here, green and black and the occasional pinkish one all piled together, eating algae.

Dark isopods, and one pinkish brown one.

Kelp crab. One pinched me when I moved aside a handful of kelp. They match the colour so perfectly, we don't see them until they run.

 Decorator crab.

Another lifer, also one I'd looked at in the books and wished for. The crab covers himself with bits and pieces of whatever he finds in his environment. Catch one among the seaweed, and house him in a tank without it, and he changes his outfit, taking off the seaweed and sticking on bits of shell or whatever you have provided. We saw this one only because he moved one way when I pulled the seaweed the other.

Decorative crabs.

A purple shore crab, and a yellow crab. These little ones come in all colours and patterns: I'll post an assortment in a couple of days.

A ribbed shell with a hermit crab inside.

Another shell, another hermit. The grainy-hand hermit, Pagurus granosimanus.

A burrowing anemone, Anthopleura artemisia. It lives under the sand, exposing only the oral disc and tentacles.

Another burrowing anemone, with prey; two small crabs.

Starfish don't bother with camouflage; they just try to become part of the terrain:

Suckers on a starfish's arm.

Suckers in operation. I flipped the starfish, and he came up with these, and wouldn't let go.

 And that's not all ... Today was another low-tide day, and we combed two beaches. More lifers coming up!


  1. Oooooooh, I'm dyin' over here! That chiton is so beautiful! I've looked for them, I know they exist on our coast - I've seen their empty shells. I've never ever seen one alive before. He is a work of art in and of himself isn't he???

    Green, green, green I am!

  2. Lovely stuff, great finds!! I can't remember if I've seen a live lined chiton, but seen many of their plates. I remember my first gumboot chiton find on the far west coast; that was super cool, too! Thanks for sharing your wonderful tidepool wanderings.

  3. Wow, I can't wait for the opportunity to visit your coast. What interesting things you find. That lined chiton is a real treasure. I've never seen anything like it! ~karen

  4. I agree with everyone else. What a trove!


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