Since the Birch Aquarium is so close to La Jolla Shores, I like to go tide pooling in the afternoon, after my shift ends. It’s a popular pastime here, although I am significantly older than the average tide pooler around here. I’m not letting that stop me…
The general idea behind tide pooling is that as the tide drops, pools of water become separated from the ocean, trapping animals. Whole communities of animals live on the rocks here, and the best way to find them is when they are exposed in a tidal pool. The picture above shows some of the local tide poolers in action.
This is a tidal pool. The water in here is not connected to the ocean, and any animals here are easily seen until the high tide submerges the rocks once again.
Barnacles and mussels are some of the most common animals on the rocks, although they prefer to stay wet most of the time. They are not usually found in the tidal pools themselves, but in the surf zone lower on the rocks that stays damp, even at low tide.
This is a different species of barnacle, that produces a hard shell cemented to the rock. Barnacles feed by waving a sieve-like arm out through the hole in the center of the shell, trapping small bits of food in the water. They then draw the arm back into the shell, where the animal eats it. Barnacles are crustaceans, so they are closely related to shrimp and crabs.
These odd animals are Chitons. Closely related to snails, they slide around on a muscular foot, foraging on the rock surface. If the bands remind you of an armadillo, you are not far off. When detached, chitons protect themselves by rolling into a ball.
High on the rocks are yet another shelled animal, the limpet. Like the chiton, it is a mollusc and closely related to snails. Apparently, these are edible, but I’ve read mixed reports at to their taste and texture. I must try them at some point, if I come across them in an area that is not protected.
Some of the holes are almost perfectly round and much deeper than the others. I don’t know what made them, but I almost think they may have held pier pilings at one point. If anyone has the answer, please post a comment. This hole has a large number of anemones in it.
Looking closer at an anemone, you can see that they are quite beautiful. While some species can sting humans, this variety is entirely harmless to people. When disturbed, they pull in their tentacles and close up for protection. The tentacles are very sticky, and can trap very small animals. These are then moved to the opening in the center of the anemone, which acts as both a mouth and anus.
In a different tidal pool, I found this mass of foraging hermit crabs. They seemed to be trying to get within a few inches of the water surface, but I don’t know why.
The beauty of these tide pools is that they are protected by law. It is illegal in California, for the most part, to collect animals from tide pools. This way, more people can come and see these awesome animals, which they otherwise have no opportunity to observe.
By the way, there were also seals and sea lions. I’ll write a post on those next.
~The Homesteading Hippy