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Sunday, March 6, 2016


Well, we couldn't resist...the conditions were just right for interesting things washing up on the beach — a storm during El Niño conditions with large waves (~14 feet) and strong southwest winds (20-30 knots).

So we went for a short walk at Salmon Creek Beach, and we weren't disappointed.  

There were By-the-wind Sailors (Velella velella), pyrosomes (Pyrosoma), gelatinous pseudoconchs of Corolla spectabilis, three species of siphonophores (Chelophyes, Diphyes, Physophora), and two species of pelagic barnacles (Lepas and Dosima).  

And we can now say that 2016 is an "epic" year for Purple Sea Snails (Janthina umbilicata) in Bodega Bay.  There were hundreds of them washing ashore today.

I know I've posted about Purple Sea Snails several times during the past six weeks, but it seems important to document their appearance in Northern California this year (and they're fascinating animals, so there's a lot to learn about them!).

Below are two examples, each with three snails.  Can you find them among the Velella?

Now that you've had some practice, how many Purple Sea Snails can you find in the picture below?

It takes a bit of searching for that distinctive purple color.  And learning that they're lighter on one side (the spire side that floats downward) and darker on the other (the large whorl that floats upward).

Here's the same picture with the snails circled in yellow:

If you missed the snail in the upper right corner, don't worry!  You'd eventually find it with practice.

I think you can tell from these pictures that many Velella washed ashore today we estimated millionsAlthough a good number of Velella were ~1 cm long (see photos above), many were only 1-2 mm long (see next photo, with one Purple Sea Snail surrounded by uncountable masses of juvenile Velella):

Stormy conditions are expected to continue this week.  If you're at the beach, be safe around the large waves.  If you spot any Purple Sea Snails, I'd love to hear about it.