Saturday, December 07, 2013

Flowerpot mimic

Things are not always what they seem: I was chasing misbehaving hermits in the aquarium with the camera, (with little success) and happened across a desert plant. Or so it seemed, at first glance.

Small prickly pear plant in a flowerpot?

Rockweed grows right up to the high tide line on the south end of the Boundary Bay beach, just north of Point Roberts. But it's an unusual rockweed; small, brown, straggly plants, looking more dead than alive, each tiny plant attached to a stone small enough to be rolled around by any wave action. The curve of the shore must curb the energy of the currents here, for these to survive.

They survive well in the aquarium, too. Other rockweeds tend to disintegrate, probably because they've been torn from their moorings. These come home with the stone attached. They're not exactly beautiful, but the snails and hermits love them, for food and exercise both.

This turned out to be a branch tip of one of the weeds. To the naked eye, it looks brown, but the flash brings out other colours, red and green.

The blue "ball" is a periwinkle snail. One of its antennae is showing, to the bottom right.

And those white "cactus prickles"? Everything that's been in the aquarium for over a day, no matter how clean it was when I added it, (I scrub shells that I add, and the glass walls) develops a miniature forest of tiny algae and other organisms, hydroids, worm tubes, protozoa, with their resident mini-critters. Looking at any of them under a microscope, I always see scooting, busy copepods and transparent worms. Even smaller still are swarms of assorted diatoms. And over it, in the "atmosphere" over the "forest", larger copepods and baby amphipods dance.

At this magnification, maybe 4 times the actual size, and seen through algae-coated glass, the white spots would be copepods and amphipods. The fuzz on the circumference of the snail is probably made up of hydroids.


  1. Wow, how cool. Love that detailed break down & laud your patience re: figuring it all out.

    I audited a marine bio course once & a guest lecturer said the ocean is STUFFED to the GILLS with bacteria and viruses, and they're JUST starting to figure some of them out.

    You only have to be wading around the ocean a little bit & forget to wash SOMEthing right away and WOW, do you believe there's lots of stuff living in there. 'Cause your clothes are RANK in very short order. =) (pardon--lovely post. =) )

  2. Wayne would love to have a look at your water under his microscope I bet. He hasn't had it out for quite a while. We were surprised how "inactive" the water is from under the cabin. Maybe because it moves around so much in the middle of the bay on its way down the lake to the dam. - Margy


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