Sunday, March 25, 2012

About those animal tracks ...

Maybe that was too easy; the animals that made the tracks I posted yesterday were pretty well identified just by location. Kirk weighed in with the answer before dawn.

Hermit crab tracks.

Maybe I should have asked for the species.

However obvious the track makers were, I failed to recognize them when we first saw them on the beach. Which is surprising, and a bit embarrassing; after years of interacting with hermits, and more years of following snail trails up and down the mud flats on this same beach, I had never noticed any before. My (flimsy) excuse is that my hermits were usually underwater, and the snail trails are mostly in mud, which oozes and doesn't retain those pin-prick prints. It was only in the damp, firm sand, protected from the wind in valleys between wave ridges, that the footprints stayed put long enough for us to see them. Where the hermits crossed ridges, the orderly line of many-legged travel became only a wind-blown, blurry mussing of the sand.

I discovered the source when, at the end of another trail, I picked up another small snail shell. This one had sand clumped around the opening; I gently brushed it off, until I exposed just the tip of a hermit's main pincer. Poor frightened beastie, trying to make himself invisible deep in his shell! I apologized, and replaced him in his cosy trench.

No, I don't know the species for sure, either. By the location of the tracks, the size of the shell and shape of the pincer, I think it was probably a greenmark hermit; we have found many, a bit farther down this beach.

A few days earlier, on the White Rock beach, we found another intriguing set of marks. I always notice sandstone; I love the swirling or wavy patterns preserved there. On a big sandstone rock among the rip-rap separating the beach from the railroad track something had left its mark, long ago.

Footprint or coincidental cluster of clay lumps?

This was about the size of a medium dog's paw print. In the photo, it almost looks raised, but it was a depression in the sandstone, partially filled in with a fine clay, hardened, but flaky. (The little piece of wood is sitting loose on top of the clay/stone; knowing that forces my eyes to recognize the shape as an indentation.)

And when I stepped back to leave, I realized that the print was part of a sort of track:

More indentations, in clusters about a foot apart.

Are these fossilized prints, or is it my imagination running away with me? Probably the latter, but it's fun to speculate.


1 comment:

  1. Imagination is a wonderful thing. It opens us up to lots of possibilities. Well, maybe the exception is after midnight when imagination can sometimes run to the scary side. - Margy

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