Friday, July 26, 2013

Pale blue fosterlings

The morning tides are extremely low this time of year, but we're slow getting started. Last Sunday, by the time we got to the beach, the water was halfway back, and coming in fast. We walked out to meet it, then had to hurry back, wading knee-deep, fighting the current that wanted to tip me in, camera and all.

When the water has a kilometre or more to flood or drain, it doesn't dawdle.

At the upper edge, we inspected the line of eelgrass knots being slammed onto the stones. Laurie spotted something blue, and caught it before the water swept it away again. It was a shapeless blue blob of jelly stuck on a few eelgrass blades, almost smeared along them, so that my first thought was "sponge". I brought it home to get a better look at it.

Washed gently and resting in a bowl of clean water, it opened out.

Mamma and the kids. One has started to move out on his own.

I recognized what it was by the cluster of youngsters of various sizes attached to the column; a brooding anemone, Epiactis. She (the mother) was quite small; the eelgrass is about 1/2 inch wide. She was wrapped around it, spread rather flat.

The mother's mouth, stretched out now that she's more comfortable. The young ones cluster around the bottom of the column.

Another view of the immature anemones. A couple were tiny, and almost colourless.

The eggs of this anemone are fertilized in the digestive cavity, and the larvae either swim or are expelled out of the mouth, and settle on the column. They stay there, digesting the yolk the mother has provided, until they are grown enough to feed on their own, then slide off to find their own place.

They may settle on rocks or shells, but are commonly found on eelgrass, like this family. The trouble with eelgrass is that it is often ripped up by the waves and tossed on beaches, where the anemones die.

They are rarely exposed to the air, not being able to tolerate exposure to the air and sun. (Race Rocks)

It was too late for this mother; she'd already been rolled on a stony beach in the sunshine, transferred to a bag (good; dark and wet), then to a bowl. I moved her quickly to the tank, making sure she stayed in the water even in transit. Maybe she'd be ok.

She wasn't. She died this morning, but by that time, many of the young ones had abandoned her. At last count, a dozen have established themselves, mostly on the eelgrass. They're tiny, maybe too tiny, and conditions in my tank may not quite match those of their usual home, but I'm hoping at least a few will survive.

Baby anemone, with one of my smallest orange hermits.

The colour leached out of the mother the first day, and the young ones, when they moved away, were a pale cream colour, but the blue is returning.

Another youngster, with a baby bubble shell snail.

These anemones eat small crustaceans, like shrimp, and small fish. I think they may like the amphipods that swim around the tank, but since they are so young, I'll start hand feeding bits of frozen shrimp directly into their mouths until they are established.

Wish us luck!

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