A snail with a yellow body and a cone shaped shell.

What’s in the Tidepools? – January 2023

A snail with a flat oval shaped shell made up of eight horizontal segments.

What’s In the Tidepools? – January 2023

(NPS Photo/M. Rose)

January was an outstanding month for exploring in the tidepools. The king tides produced an extreme low tide of -2.2 feet, giving an exceptional viewing of critters in the tidepools. Speculation is that perhaps there were more rare critters than normal due to the high surf and storms.

Here is a sampling of what our volunteers observed during this month — thank you to everyone who contributed. Remember to send in your photos; we truly appreciate sharing them with everyone.

You can find videos on the Tidepool Videos page.

The Keyhole limpet is an interesting looking critter. The hard shell on top looks too small for its body. We see Keyhole limpets of different colors in the tidepools, from black as shown here, to brown, gray and mottled. They have a large orange foot on the bottom. They are always a treat to show the visitors.

With the recent strong storms and king tides, there is no surprise that bluff collapses and erosion occurred throughout the tidepools.The sandstone and shale layers are very soft and erode easily. This is a good reminder to avoid standing next to the cliffs, and advising visitors of the dangers, while in the tidepools.

Brooding Anemones have been abundant this season in the tidepools. Besides the small orange dots that are commonly found, there are also others that are a little larger and have a deep red color.

The Brooding anemones are often found among the kelp and algae.

Baby California Sea Hares have been found in all areas of the tidepools, some as small as 3 inches. Several have been found at the main entrance and others out in Zone 2.

They can often look like a shiny blob or rock when they are out of the water. They are just waiting patiently for the tide to roll back in.

Many species of sea stars were spotted this month, including bat stars, knobby sea stars, multiple varieties of brittle stars, and TPERP Mary’s stuffed animal sea star.

Mary’s stuffed teaching tool actually fell out of her backpack while she leaned over, but it certainly looks as real as the actual stars.

On one day I (Nathan) volunteered, I saw 3 knobby sea stars and 7 bat stars during a single shift!

Looking at the closeup of the knobby sea star, the creamed colored spot is it’s madreporite that sucks in water to operate the tube feet. The maroon color are it’s gills. The edge around the outside of all of the blue rings are where the pedicellaria lay ready for pinching.

Abalone are more common offshore than in the intertidal zone, but still remain elusive especially in Southern California. Common threats include El Nino events, disease, distance from potential mates, and overharvesting. We have the Green abalone in our tidepools.

Spiny lobsters have been spotted frequently as of late, given the extreme low tides. Sometimes, they get caught in low water without a place to hide, making them easy prey for predators such as seagulls.

Some of the lobsters seen this month did not have any legs. The thinking is that the strong storms and surf we had may have damaged the lobster’s legs.

Lobster traps have also been washing up. Before you try to safely reel them in, make sure there are no live lobsters still in the cage. Several were released back into the ocean before the traps were removed from the tidepools.

The conspicuous chiton can grow up to 4 inches long and looks similar in appearance to a roly-poly. They are nocturnal creatures that generally avoid sunlight.

One thought on “What’s in the Tidepools? – January 2023

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