Sunday, December 12, 2010

Octopus's Garden

Leo Carrillo State Beach

Last Sunday we spent a glorious afternoon peering into the homes of starfish, crabs, anemones and octopi.
Exceptionally low tide exposed lots of rocky reef at Leo Carrillo (pictured in video above). Tufts of eelgrass made some rocks look like punk-rocker heads, i.e. topped with green hair. Ten-foot-long strands of giant kelp (Macrosystis pyrifera) lay limp, offering a good look at their holdfasts (the bottom of the plant that anchors to the seabed).
Giant kelp, I'm told, is the largest marine plant known on earth, capable of growing to 100 feet in about a year.
My son enjoyed gently touching Pacific sea stars (Pisaster ochraceus) and anemones (Anthopleura sola), as well as observing hermit crabs.
Mom was thrilled to see two tentacles of a two-spot octopus (Octopus bimaculoides) before it wedged itself more deeply under a rock. These little guys are great camouflage artists, as well as contortionists. So look for them in crevices. This species takes its name from two, eye-like spots on its hood.
If you visit tide pools, please tread with extreme care. It's easy to squash the animals--especially soft-bodied ones such as nudibranchs--and with so many people visiting the beach, the impact is considerable. Never remove anything from a tidepool, even an empty shell--for one thing, you'll be messing with the hermit crab housing market.
Check out our previous intertidal romp at El Matador State Beach.