Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Shifting shapes

The many shapes of intertidal beasties.

Long and twisty:

Long-armed brittle star, Amphiodia occidentalis. Aka snaky-armed brittle star. Disturbed in sand or mud, they stretch out and twist out of sight, gone in seconds. In my hand, they curl and twist into a knot. This one hadn't decided whether to go left or right.

Tubeworms, hiding from the light.

Saddleback gunnel. Accompanied by another of those kelp crabs with a sea lettuce hat.

Round and spiky:

Green sea urchin, Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis. (That name's a bit of a tongue-twister, isn't it?) Topside. Those spines are in constant motion.

When I was a kid, someone told me that sea urchins were good to eat. You just broke one in half, and ate it, raw, on the half-test. With a spoon.

I had to try it. I brought home a green sea urchin from the beach, cracked it down the middle, and tasted it. Not bad. I took another bite, and another. And while I spooned out that first half, the second half walked itself across the counter and dropped to the floor.

That did it. I apologized to the urchin and returned it to the beach. I never ate another.

Sea urchin underside, showing the mouth.

Mouth open, showing off his five teeth.

Blobby shape-shifters:

Pink-tipped green anemone, Anthopleura elegantissima, half-way between the ball form and the flower shape.

Compact and round:

Probably a stubby isopod, Gnorimosphaeroma oregonensis. Also a shape-shifter; they curl up into a ball and roll away when I touch them.

All of these were in the mid-tidal zone, 50th parallel north.

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