Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Another lifer!

I picked up a couple of small kelp holdfasts on the beach last week, rescued them from the mounds of seaweed shreds the tide and waves had tossed onto the rocks. They'd make a temporary addition to my tank; the hermits love to poke at them, roll them around, play King of the Castle on them.

They were battered and broken, and I noticed a couple of orange bits that looked like snapped stems of something, along with all the torn worm tubes and unidentifiable bits. More stuff for the hermits to pull apart.

Tonight, cleaning the tank, I saw that the orange bits were now a strong pink. I replaced the holdfast in the tank, right up against the glass to get a better view, and once things had settled down, they stretched out and opened two little pink pipes.

A tunicate, or sea squirt, standing tall at the foot of the holdfast. (Off to the right side, the tentacley thing is the edge of a busy sand dollar.)

"The basic tunicate is attached to something solid and has two openings at the top called siphons." (From Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest, pg. 346)

I'd never seen one of these before today*. It's a solitary tunicate, Pyura haustor, aka warty sea squirt, wrinkled seapump, or the decorator tunicate (because they glue stuff to their bodies; this one has a bunch of old worm tubes and, if you look closely, a tiny snail shell. When they are not feeding, they may be completely hidden under their collection of junk.). They can grow up to about 3 inches tall.

Zooming in. One siphon is the mouth, or intake, the other is the outflow.

*At the link above, from WallaWalla.edu, there is a photo of one of these, completely coated in blackish gunk; I could have seen hundreds like that, and never recognized them.

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