Saturday, June 5, 2010

Snorkel Safari

[Originally posted to MBA Student Oceanography Club (SOC)]
For our last field experience, we went snorkeling in Monterey Bay and had a blast.  We enjoyed great weather and explored the kelp forest and the rocky bottom areas near San Carlos beach.  My favorite part of snorkeling is seeing all the incredible creatures that live near our coast.  Here are just a few of my favorites that we encountered during our swim.

Brown Turban Snail Brown Turban Snail:  These little guys live in a world of algae.  We found them cruising along in the kelp (giant brown algae) where they eat microscopic algae growing on the kelp’s surface.  As though that weren’t already enough algae in its life, the color of the snail in this photo comes from red algae that cover its shell.  Learn more about them at:
Bat Star Bat Star:   Bat stars come in a lot of different colors, and are always fun to spot.  We saw lots of them cruising the sandy bottom, where they act as nature’s vacuum cleaners, scavenging algae and dead animals it finds along the way.  Learn more about them at:
Sheep Crab Sheep Crab:  Sheep crabs are in the spider crab family, and can grow quite large.  We found this sizable fellow ambling over rocks not far from shore.  Crabs this size can inflict a serious pinch, so I was sure to keep my fingers clear while I snapped this photo.  Learn more about them at:
Sunflower Star Sunflower Star: The giant sunflower star is one of the kelp forest’s top predators, and the hordes of tube feet under its many arms allow it to move quickly, often sending its prey scrambling for cover.  We found this one in the open on the side of a large rock, but within minutes it had squeezed itself into a crevice where it was barely visible.  Learn more about them at:
Opalescent Nudibranch Opalescent Nudibranch:  I found this beautiful sea slug crawling among the algae-covered rocks, where it was undoubtedly looking for hydroids or small anemones to eat.  The opalescent nudibranch is capable of transferring the stinging cells of its pretty to its own skin – a formidable defense that it advertises with is bright colors.  Learn more about them at:

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