Friday, June 11, 2010

Stories Beach

For today's low tide, we drove a couple of minutes up the road to Stories Beach. Half of it is sandy and flat; we took the other half, rocky and uneven, covered with kelp and sea lettuce, treacherous underfoot with hidden pools and slippery rocks. Difficult going, but what treasures we found!

There are too many critters for one post. So, in no particular order, here's the first batch:

Sand sole fry, Psettichthys melanostictus

The first pool was full of sea lettuce. Flitting around and under it were dozens of tiny flatfish, so thin they were almost transparent. The largest must have been about an inch long; most were smaller.

Underside of sole

One was semi-stuck on top of a leaf of sea lettuce. I slipped a finger underneath it and flipped it over. The flesh was like glass; I could see not only the spine, but the fine side bones.

Flatfish are built like "normal" fish, with one eye on either side of the head, but one eye migrates to the topside. With sand soles, it is the left eye that moves over to the right side, which becomes the top. The underside is pale and smooth; the top will darken as the fish grows.

These are really young fish; they still have the egg sac, just behind and below the head. They will grow to about 2 feet long.

An enlarged view of the head. The mouth is in the usual fish position, opening across the mid-line.

Fish, belly up, on my fingertip. Yes, he was alive. He swam away when I replaced him on the seaweed.

Frilled dogwinkle, Nucella lamellosa. About an inch long.

Moon snail egg case

Moon snail egg cases are unforgettable; big collars made of smooth sand, big enough to wear as a cap, sturdy enough to hold together if you try it.

Cap without a lid?

The snail's eggs are in the egg case. Not in the circle enclosed by the case; that is where the moon snail herself sat while she laid the eggs. They are inside the walls of the case itself. The snail lays the eggs, covered with mucus, which, mixed with the sand, forms a sandwich with the eggs as filling.

Sunstar, about 2 inches across.

A different sunstar, slightly bigger.

We lifted pieces of kelp and brushed aside rockweeds, to see what hid underneath. We found many of these stars, mostly under 3 or 4 inches across, with a varying number of arms. A few were dark grey, but most were in shades of orange or peach.

A small grey sunstar, upside down, showing the mouth.

These are busy hunters. They eat just about anything, including each other. But I found one missing an arm; it (the arm) was lying beside a large painted anemone which had left it behind as it retreated into the sand when I disturbed it. Turn about's fair play.

An unusual starfish.

I don't know if this is just a colour morph of the common purple and orange starfish of our beaches, or a different species. I don't think I've seen one before with these dark spots. * Identified in the comments as Pisaster brevispinus.

Mouth of anemone

This anemone, caught retreating into the sand, looks like a lipsticked mouth. I dug down afterwards, following the column; it went down at least half the length of my hand. I hit rocks before I found the base.

More tomorrow, including a couple of "lifers".


  1. Some fascinating sea critters! Love the sunstars. Haven't seen anything like that around here! But moonsnail collars are plentiful. You sure know your stuff!! Have a great weekeknd.

  2. Oh, oh, oh, you were right about me being green. I am sooooooo green right now! These shots are spectacular! I am particularly struck by that moon snail collar - I've never heard of them! Wow.

  3. Anonymous7:45 pm

    Those flatfish are so so so WEIRD! In a good way, of course! :-P

  4. Anonymous5:03 pm

    I'm thinking Pisaster brevispinus


If your comment is on a post older than a week, it will be held for moderation. Sorry about that, but spammers seem to love old posts!

Also, I have word verification on, because I found out that not only do I get spam without it, but it gets passed on to anyone commenting in that thread. Not cool!