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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Subtle shades


A zoomed-in view, comparing color and pattern variation in Harbor Seals (Phoca vitulina).  [You can click on the image for a larger version.]

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Sculpin in red


After field work a couple of days ago, Eric caught up with a beautiful sculpin in the low intertidal zone.  I love the patterning on the pectoral fin!  Photographed along the Sonoma Coast on 12 May 2024.  [You can click on the image for a larger version.]

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Seeing stripes


Abby spotted a couple of very nice invertebrates in Marin County last week.  

First, this beautiful flatworm (above), meet Eurylepta californica!  Note the maroon streaks on the white background, and the red patches at the base of the tentacles (the two tentacles are upright, but pointing downward, in the lower right corner).  This species is more often found from Monterey south.  There aren't many northern records, and observations at higher latitudes might be associated with warm-water years.

Similarly, the nudibranch Polycera atra is more common south of Point Reyes.  We've seen it in Bodega Harbor, and it's been documented as far north as British Columbia, but the northern records might be more frequent during El Niño years.

It's a good time to remain vigilant for marine invertebrates associated with warm water.  Many thanks to Abby for documenting these handsome species and for sharing her beautiful photos!

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Splash zone


A seascape from Kaua'i to help celebrate Mother's Day — including Mother Earth!

Thursday, May 9, 2024

Who's the culprit?


This is a scene we came across after finishing field work this morning (9 May 2024).  Some empty-looking whelks (Nucella ostrina) on the sand...and upon closer inspection, their opercula nearby (the operculum is the "trap-door" on the bottom of a snail's foot that seals the opening to its shell when the snail is pulled in).

It looked like the snails had been eaten by a predator, but we couldn't recall seeing this before, so we looked around a little more.

We found even more evidence that something had been eating both whelks and limpets.  Here are a few examples, including snail shells and overturned limpet shells with most of the soft parts missing, but with a thin ring of tissue, evidence that they had been eaten recently:

So...who was responsible for eating these snails and limpets?
We weren't sure, but we kept looking, and Eric eventually spotted a clue.  Tracks in the sand around some of the predated shells:
After thinking through the possibilities, we're guessing these footprints might belong to a rat (!).
Rat predation on intertidal invertebrates has been documented previously (Thanks to Sergio!), but we don't recall seeing it locally before.  Maybe because there was a lot of sand at this site it was easier to notice the empty shells and the tracks in the sand.
Here's a close-up of one track in case anyone can help us with an identification.  The track was ~1 cm across.
You learn something new every day!

Monday, May 6, 2024

Setting the tone


Sunset from Cotati on 6 May 2024

Saturday, May 4, 2024

Finding a way


 Silver Bee (Habropoda miserabilis) on Seaside Fiddleneck (Amsinckia spectabilis).
P.S.  Spectacular Game 7 win for the black-and-gold Bruins!  Yeah, B's!