A five pointed brown sea star with white and blue circles on each arm.

What’s in the Tidepools? – March 2023

An elongated purple sea slug with orange stripes running the length of the body.

What’s In the Tidepools? – March 2023

(NPS Photo/N. Cheng)

March was the last month for the extreme low tides of the season, and it didn’t fail to produce outstanding critter sightings from nudibranchs to octopus. 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.

Two birds of prey are fighting over the ocean A blue sky is in the background.
NPS/P. Geisler – Osprey with fish duels with Peregrine falcon over the tidepools

The Keyhole limpet is often found in the tidepools.

The blood of this species is used in many cancer treatments and vaccines, as it stimulates the immune system and its protein transports molecules throughout the body.  

A liter of blood from a keyhole limpet will produce 20 grams of protein, which can be worth as much as $100,000.

Their shells were used as currency among Native Americans.

Ghost Ship – On March 19 we had a thick low fog layer covering the bay and most of San Diego. Cabrillo was above the fog giving this shot of the masts of a sailboat sailing out of the bay along with a squadron of pelicans flying by.

The Two-spot Octopus is always a fun find for the visitors as well as the volunteers. VIP Tansy captured some great photos and video during March. Last month she captured some great video of a Moray Eel. We may need to start calling her the Octopus and Eel Whisperer.

Sea Hares have been found in all areas of the tidepools, some as small as 3 inches. These photos show a Black Sea Hare. One photo shows it in the water where you can see its “rabbit ears”. The other photo shows what a sea hare looks like when it is out of the water. They can often look like a shiny blob or rock. They are just waiting patiently for the tide to roll back in.

Sea Stars were abundant this month, especially the Bat Stars. VIP Sue was able to find this blue Knobby sea star.

They are predators and eat many mussels and barnacles. The star’s tube feet use strong suction to pull the mussel’s shell apart. They can pull nonstop for hours until their prey gets tired. Once they open their prey’s shell, even a bit, they extend their stomach out into the prey and digest it. It takes more than six hours to eat one bivalve like a mussel.

Spiny lobsters have been spotted frequently as of late, given the extreme low tides. VIP Cathy captured the video showing two lobsters having a discussion.

It gets its name from the sharp spines attached to its exoskeleton. The absence of large pinching claws common of other lobsters is substituted by long antennae that are thickly set with sandpapery spines.

While lobsters will eat almost anything, their favorite diet consists mostly of snails, clams, crabs, and sea urchins. They will also eat mussels when the tide is in.

Nudibranchs were plentiful in the tidepools this month. Along with the common ones that are seen, the Hopkins Rose and the Opalescent nudibranchs, VIP Denine found a Spanish Shawl, which is striking in color. VIP Nathan not only found a MacFarland’s chromodorid, but a more uncommon Diamondback tritonia, both great finds. There are hundreds of types of nudibranchs. Look it up online to see all the colorful types.

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

  1. Wow, lots of cool photos. I loved the commentaries; especially those related to Sea Stars and Keyhole Limpets. Thanks so much for sharing. Denine

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