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Saturday, February 25, 2017


We were fortunate to spend a few minutes watching an octopus in a tidepool this afternoon.  

It performed some "cephalopod magic" dramatically changing texture and color.

This is the same octopus, but check out the pointy protuberances everywhere:

And yes, pictured below is the same octopus, but here it has turned itself into a rock, matching the colors and patterns of its surroundings, including patches of coralline algae:

And I couldn't resist including one detail picture.  For orientation, the eye of the octopus is in the lower right (the black horizontal slit):


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Tubes and slippers on the beach

I've heard from several people that pyrosomes have been washing ashore on beaches — in Monterey and Bodega Bay, California and in Seaside, Oregon.  We saw some pyrosomes ourselves last night (22 February 2017) on Salmon Creek Beach:

We estimated there were over 1,000 pyrosomes washed up along about a 1-km stretch of beach.

Below is a closer view.  You might recall that pyrosomes are a type of pelagic tunicate, related to sea squirts.  [For an introduction to pyrosomes, review the "Fire bodies" post from 8 December 2014.]

We encountered a variety of sizes (most of them were on the larger end of this size range):

I've received a few questions about how to tell pyrosomes from Corolla spectabilis pseudoconchs.  So for anyone who's been puzzling over either one, here's a side-by-side comparison.  Note the overall shape (oval vs. elongate) and color (clear and transparent vs. pinkish and opaque) and structural differences (slipper-shaped vs. tubular).

And if you haven't seen it yet, there's an introduction to Corolla on the "Gelatinous thimble" post on 11 August 2012.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Blurry clouds

Some amazing clouds were visible in the late afternoon and early evening today.

I know the white clouds in the photo above appear to be out of focus, but that's really how they looked!  I'm not sure I've seen clouds like that before.  They were actually blurred!

Here's the sky about 5 minutes later (looking west from Bodega Head):

And a close-up of those blurred white clouds about 10 minutes after the first picture was taken:

I'd love to learn more about what causes those blurry clouds.  Does it have to do with temperature?  If you know what was going on, let me know!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

"Soft belly"

Here's a quick introduction to the Furry Crab (Hapalogaster cavicauda).  [The best part is the video at the end!]

This species reaches its northern range limit at Cape Mendocino.  We haven't encountered it very often in northern California, but we photographed two individuals on 12 February 2017.

In all of these photos, look for the short, dense setae (hair-like bristles) covering the carapace and claws that give this crab its common name.  In the photo above, note the very broad abdomen curled under the body.  Although you can't tell from these pictures, the abdomen on Furry Crabs is very soft.  It's quite noticeable when you hold these crabs.  Fun fact: Their scientific name "Hapalogaster" — means "soft belly."

Here's a good view of the dense setae on the claws:

Here's a juvenile (and a slightly better view of the abdomen, curled under the body between the last pair of walking legs):

Eric put together a great video clip of Hapalogaster.  Watch for a few different things views of the dense setae; a close-up of the eyes; and some bryozoan "friends" living on one of its claws!  [If you can't see the video below, click on the title of this post to go to the web page.]


Monday, February 20, 2017

Off the top

A few wave images from 20 February 2017.  Swell heights were ~12 feet.  Winds were from the south at ~15-20 knots, creating good conditions for spindrift blowing back off the tops of the waves.  [Click on the images for larger versions.]

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Foamy photos

A few foamy photos from yesterday (18 February 2017).  It was windy enough that large pieces of foam were becoming airborne:

Can you find the "foam elephant" in the photo below?  :) 

As you can probably tell, many of these pieces were much larger than snowflakes:

Sometimes the foam was lifted high into the sky who knows how far it traveled? 

P.S.  One of the dangers of trying to take pictures of flying foam is that sometimes your camera (or your face) is in the direct line of flight!  It's a funny experience because it's a bit scary to realize that a large flying object is headed towards you, but then you remember it's just foam, and you feel a gentle but noticeable "thwap"and then the clump of bubbles breaks apart upon contact.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Northwest winds

If felt like spring today, with strong 20-25 knot northwest winds.

I'm guessing the swell was ~12-14 feet when I took this picture ~mid-day today (18 February 2017).