Welcome to Snails to Whales, Bruce Berman's Boston Harbor blog focused on both the little and the big things that make Boston Harbor such an extraordinary place to live, work and play.
It is also a place for my Boston University students and my colleagues at Save the Harbor / Save the Bay to share their work and experiences.
The second part of the assignment consist on identifying the shells we found on the huge rock at the end of our tidal pool observations. We also have to conclude on how these terrestrial snails got to that part of the island.
Let me first start by identifying the shells we found. There were two types of shells, in which prior to their landing on the rock, belonged to two specific species known as the Brown-Lipped Snails (Cepaea Nemoralis) and White-Lipped Snails (Cepaea Hortensis).
The first shell I saw and observed belonged to a Brown-Lipped Snail. The reason I know this is because the color around the original shell's opening was brown. I mention original because this specific shell had two openings, in which one of them was intentionally done by another animal. The shell's colors were purple and white and it had two think brown spiral lines along the body of the shell. This specific shell was about 2.5 cm long. After doing some research, I found that the shell of this snails vary in color and are larger than the White-Lipped Snail's shell. Also, this specie can be found all around the Boston Harbor Islands, specially around vegetation.
The second shell I saw belonged to a White-Lipped Snail. There are just a few differences between this shell and the one mentioned above. This shell had a white color around the original shell's opening, which is the reason of their name. Also, the shell was a bit smaller than the first shell I described, about 2.0 cm long, and its colors were white and light brown with about three spiral lines along the body of the shell. (This shell also had an intentionally done opening on the shell)
Interesting facts are that both of these terrestrial species have both female and male reproductive parts, they can live up to nine years, and they bury themselves into the soil during the winter time.
When it comes to analyzing how these shells/snails go to that part of the island, where no vegetation (their habitat) is found, there is only one conclusion to make; they were brought there by an animal. This animal could be any bird that feeds from snails. As I mentioned prior, the two shells I observed had one intentional opening at the opposite side of their original openings. With this being said, what makes sense to me, is that the bird was trying to eat the inside and brought the snail to the rock were we found them. By doing this, the bird had a solid location in which he/she was able to use its peak to make this openings in order to eat the snail. As you all can recall, there were many shells at the Fan Pier Cove and was determined that birds had brought them there to feed themselves. On this occasion, the same is happening. The bird went to a "familiar" place where he/she knows that no other animal will interrupt its feeding process. Also, it is important to note that birds are one of the most important predators of territorial snails. Even though there are other "enemies" for these species, no other animal is able to fly or capable of bringing such shell to such a remote location.
Can we all just agree on how interesting, knowledgeable, and fun our field trip was on Friday! I cannot wait for our next field trip! I first wanted to post a picture of our beloved friend, the mop, who joined us in our adventure thanks to Charlie.
For the first assignment I have decided to post the drawings I have created for each specie and I will include my notes plus any additional information in regards to each after the drawings.
Part 1: Recreation Fishing
All the recreational fishing species (except the first one, as it was brought by Professor Berman) were found on the ocean, near the Boston Harbor Islands when it was low tide and from around 10 am to 11 am.
The first drawing is known as the Clam Worm (N. virens). Per my notes the worm I observed was about 21 cm long and had a width of 1 cm. It had orange segments, many many of them, and its body had green and brown. When I touched the body of it, it was extremely soft and the mouth contained two black teeth. Its anus was located between the middle of the body and its head. This type of worm is common in New England and are commonly used as baits. They are known to have about 200 segments and two pair of eyes. They are mostly found on sand, sandy mud, clay, and various peat bottoms. They also feed from other worms and carrion and range from Maine to Virginia, and entire Pacific Coast.
The second specie is the Black Sea Bass (Centropristis Striata). The bass that we caught was about 15 in long and its colors were beautiful. It was brown and a turquoise color. It also had some black. This specific bass had a long dorsal fin and two pelvic fins. Moreover, it had one pectoral fin in each side and an anal fin. Its mouth was round when it opened ans it had very tiny teeth along the mouth. A very interesting fact is that most of them are born as females and then turn into males. One can tell by the "hump" that is located in between the head and the dorsal fin. They are located along the East Coast from Massachusetts to Florida. Most females can live up to 8 years while males up to 12 years.
The third specie (two of them) are called Summer Flounders (Paralichthys Dentatus) The first flounder was about 12 in long and it was brown and greenish with many dark (black) dots on its body. It had a long dorsal fin and anal fin. On the side where the eyes were located, it had a pectoral fin. The second flounder was bigger as it measured approximately 16 in and its colors were a light brown and some green. The second flounder did not have the amount of dots found on the first one and the dots that I did located were very light. Other than that, the other characteristics found on the first flounder were the same as the second one. The two flounders were left eyed (both eyes were located on the left side of the body when the dorsal fin was facing up). This specie is born with one eye in one side of the body and the other eye on the other side, but as time passes, the eye that is located on the white bottom part of its body, or better known as the blind side, migrates to the other side. This specie is very common in the mid-Atlantic from Massachusetts to North Carolina and their life expectancy is about 12 to 14 years.
The fourth specie was a Silver Hake (Merluccius Bilinearis). This fish was the smallest fish we caught. It was about 8 in long and it had a gray coat with brown dots on the top. It also had a white bottom. It had one pectoral fins in each side, three dorsal fins, one pelvic fin in each side and two anal fins (the anal fins and pelvic fins were transparent in color). This fish can live up to 14 years and can weight up to five pounds. They migrate depending on seasonal changes and can be found from Maine to South Carolina. Additionally, they feed on fish, crustaceans, and squid and females are serial spawners, meaning that they can produce and release up to three batches of eggs in a single spawning season.
The final specie that was caught was the Atlantic Striped Bass (Morone Saxatilis). I was completely amazed on how big and unique this fish was. When measured, it was about 38 in and it had so many colors ranging from purple, red, blue, green, and brown. The bottom of it was white and its tail was green, while the rest of the body was multicolored. It had two dorsal fins, one pectoral fin in each side of its body, one pelvic fin (transparent), and one anal fin. When I counted the number of stripes on the bass, there were about seven, which is a common number for this type of specie. They can live up to 30 years and can weight 55 to 77 pounds. Females can produce a very large quantities of eggs, which are then fertilized by the males once they are released. They can be located along the East Coast from Canada to Florida. They mostly eat fish and their teeth are abrasive rather than cutting. The striped bass is very known in New England as it is an important commercial fish within fisheries. I have to say that holding this fish was quiet an experience!
Part 2: Tide Pool
All the tide pool species were found on one of the tide pools in Lovells Island when the tide was increasing. The time frame was from about 12:45 pm to 1:15 pm.
The first drawing and specie is a Common Periwinkle (Littorina Littorea). This little specie had a dark shell with brown and black colors. It also had very remarkable stripes all round its shell. Some of the stripes were from right to left, while there were some stripes (about four of them) that were thicker and went from side to side (up to bottom). When I looked on the other side of the shell, I noticed a white surrounding on the opening of the shell. Inside this opening, the animal was located. When Professor Berman and our classmate Stephanie sang to it, I was able to notice the animal coming out slowly and I observed its two black antennas and black head. This specific specie was about 2 cm long and they may grow to be up to 4 cm. Also, it prefers hard surfaces and is the most common northern rock and winkle. An interesting fact is that they are originally from Europe and are very famous in Italian fish markets, but can be found from Canada to Virginia. They are mostly in intertidal zones which is the reason they were located in the tidal pool we observed as some parts of it are under water while high tide and above water at low tide.
The second specie drawn is the Northern Rock Barnacle (Semibalanus Balanoides). This type of barnacle is the most common in New England. The barnacles I observed had six plates, which is a common characteristic for this type of specie. As you can see from the picture below, there were more than one located on the rock and some of the were much more developed than others. This specie also prefers intertidal zones and can be found from the northern Atlantic to Delaware. Moreover, they are native to the United States. Per my observations there were two colors on them; a bright yellow on the interior with a white linings on each. Most of them are originally white, but can change colors depending on their environment (stained by the sun or algal encounters). Also, the inside of it, or better known as the basal plate, was larger than other barnacles I have observed during our field trips. They can grow to be up to 2.5 cm each.
The third specie is the Asian Shore Crab (Hemigrapsus Sanguineus). As I observed this specie I noticed it had four legs in each side and one claw on each side. Its colors were quiet amazing. It had light green near its eyes, and black, dark green, and brown on its body. Its legs had green and brown segments, which I found to be pretty interesting. I also noticed two eyes near its claws. This crab was very small compare to the ones we saw at the Barking Crab docks. The one I saw was about 2 cm and they can grow up to 2.5 cm. They are square like shape and have three marginal teeth. They can vary in color and are also found in intertidal zones depending on the weather. During winter time they are subtidal. This specie is not U.S native and they are originally from Asia, as the name implies. They can be found in Maine to North Carolina and prefers rocks, which is the reason most of them are located underneath rocks (where we found the one I observed) .
The fourth specie, which we had the option to chose, was the Common Slipper Shell (Crepidula Fornicata). While observing the surrounding of where I found this shell, I noticed the rocky shore, which is a common place where once can find this specie. They attached themselves to any hard object (the one I observed was attached to a rock). The shell had many little turns and its colors were white and red. Also, the edge was smooth and curved. The inside (the animal) had different colors, ranging from very light brown, dark brown, yellow, and black. The shell was about 3 cm long and they can grow up to 38 mm. They can be found in the Gulf of Mexico and Massachusetts Bay and at times (accidentally) in Europe. This specie is also unique as they also experience a sex reversal (just like the Black Sea Bass). The difference between this specie and the Sea Bass is that they are usually born as males and later become females. Another note I would like to make is that they are simply delicious! I had the opportunity to taste the one I observed and it was pretty good, it just needed a touch of lemon. Yum!
Well, I hope everyone learned something new on Friday because I certainly did. It was quiet an experience! I would like to apologize for the art, lets just say drawing is not a forte of mine. See you all Friday!
Sunday’s class was our first where we got to grab creepy
things from their watery lairs and try and count their bits and pieces before
The dying part was sad. The creepiness was… creepy. And there was
also a pretty unpleasant smell that was tough to wash off my hands afterwards.
But it was also fun and fascinating! I think what really blew me away was just
how many species can be found living on a single muscle (enough that I’m
certain that I didn’t find all of them).
On to my observations: Our first stop was the Water
Transportation Dock at Fan Pier Cove. We broke into groups and I somehow
managed to glob onto team #, which was lucky for me (I believe we were the only
team of 4). I worked with Daniela, Sonja and Chris, and I don’t think my
observations would have been enough to identify all of these species without
Here’s what I believe I saw on the Water Transportation Doc:
Sea Lettuce – this seemed to be everywhere we looked yet in
small quantities. I definitely observed it here and at the Barking Crab docks.
At first I confused it with another type of seaweed that was the same color but
longer, which brings us to:
Kelp maybe? - I actually wasn’t able to identify exactly
what the longer flat green type of seaweed was, besides that it’s not just
bigger sea lettuce, an it’s probably some form of kelp.
Frayed Weed – I believe this is the type of reddish brown
seaweed I saw on the north west side of the dock.
Lacey Red Weed – I think this is the finer red seaweed I
observed on both docks.
Hollow Green Weed – these were the worm-like weeds on the
north-east and south-east sides of the dock.
Barnacles – I believe the two types of barnacles I saw were
the ‘Little Grey’ and the ‘Crenate’ (the muscle shell I looked at had many
little greys and a single Crenate).
The green fennel-like seaweed I saw on the north west side
of the dock may have been green sea fern, but I’m not sure. I didn’t get a
picture of that one, and the pictures I’ve seen of green sea fern don’t look
Our next stop was the Barking Crab docks, and this is where
we found the creepier (and more interesting) creatures. I pulled several
muscles, some seaweed, a blob of bright orange, and a small crab from under one
of the floating docks. Daniela, Sonja, Chris and I observed several species
living on the muscles and in the seaweed. Here’s what I think I’ve identified:
Blue Muscles – though they were pretty well covered, the
muscles we found appeared to be blue muscles.
Orange Sheath Tunicate – this was the orange blob I pulled
out. Looking closely I could see that it was orange because of the tiny
roundish orange structures that were inside a jelly like substance. Each of the
round orange cells had a tiny spot on it that would have been the opening of tunicate.
Sea Pork – another orange tunicate, but this one had
flower-shaped structures that were sparsely distributed.
Golden Star Tunicate – There were several star-shaped
tunicates that I would have thought were different species but may just have
been a variant of the Golden Star.
White Crusts – I’m not really sure of this one. I saw three
different whitish crusty types of what I think were tunicates, but the
description of this one most closely matches the one with distinct tubular
structure. Unfortunately, it’s size range starts at 3 inches, so it may rule
out any of the ones I observed (all of which were 1 to 2 inches or less).
Amphipods – Ok, so amphipods is not a species, but I was
unable to identify the species of the two shrimp-like creatures we observed
with yellow and black spotted and black and grey striped patterns. I am fairly
certain that they are amphipods based on their overall look, their size, and
the number of legs - 14 with the front two pairs thicker at the end (which are called
Skeleton Shrimp – I have no doubt that the longer, thin,
shrimp-like (and sort of worm-like) creatures that had the look of a praying
mantis were skeleton shrimp (which are actually amphipods).
Gulfweed Crab – the pattern on the small orange crab I found
matches that of the gulfweed crab shown in the Peterson field guide. The size
is off, but I’m not sure if that is because of how I measured my specimen ( I
included outstretched legs). I measured it at 1 inch, where the guide indicates
it grows up to ¾ of an inch. It’s close enough that I’m fairly confident this
is the right species.
Common Spider Crab – This was the ugly dark brown fella in
the lobster trap with the round body and long arms.
Rock Crab – this was the large reddish-brown crab we saw in
the lobster trap.
Northern Lobster – this was the lobster in the lobster trap.
Last Sunday we took a look at some of the amazing species that we can find in the harbor and under the barking crab.
After a trip on the cultural connector we arrived at the seaport and invistigated the docks to see what kind of marine life we could find on the docks. I was part of team somethingfishy along with patrick and erick. We saw some bits is shells scattered around by seaguls feasting. The shells had lots of acorn barnacles on them, and the pillars hilding the docks did as well. The barnacles were small, about 1/4 of an inch. On the docksthat did not leave the water we could see lettuce seaweed growing along with other types of marine life such as blue mussels, barnacles, and golden star tunicates.
We ventured our way towards the barking crab amd its public dock. We were allowed to take a look under them to see just what secrets the crab holds. First thing we picked out of the water was this weird yellow plump squishy thing that looked like a wad of old chewed gum. We assumed it was something like an egg sack, it however turned out to be a pleated sea squirt. This sea squirt was attached to a blue mussle but what inside the mussle was far different. A slimy bug that looked alot like a centipede layed inside, we assume it is some kind of isopod but we have yet to discover what it truly is. Around the whole area were moon jelly fish floating with the current along with the waving sea lettuce on the docks. Finally we got to see the lobster trap and its contents, north Atlantic lobster and commom spider crabs.
After taking a scary boat ride to the Fan Pier we investigated a cruel-some murder scene. Birds used the Fan Pier to throw mussels from the sky and break their shells. The professor forced us to poke through the poor mussels where we found barnacle crusting on to the shelf and to look under the sides of the pier where we saw the usual red bushy moss like plant life and green and red seaweed that looked like the wonderful lettuce from the sea! That only lasted for a moment because soon we were behind the crab shack where Cthulhu lives...
Broken into groups with Team One; Deanna, James, and me braved the one pier where manage to secure this shaky video, it was very scary (Blogger doesn't want to upload it: http://tinyurl.com/o32s98w) We saw what I thought were spiders but later discover to be skeleton shrimps and what appeared to be a sack attached to the line we pulled.
After describing the species our group observed, we used a lot of resources which include online sources, two required guide books and other things, we finally got the names of these species. When I tried to put all species with the order from plant-like to animals, the blog messed up my paragraphs and pictures. Here are the described species and their names.
I saw another animal on
the top of the black shells. A lot of them almost cover the whole shell. The
average size of them is half inch (there are bigger ones and smaller ones). It is
white or light grey and it has a shape of a volcano, and from the top I can see
two pieces of shells inside the “volcano”. After I opened the shells, it is
squishy and yellowish.I think it is Thatched Barnacle
plant is dark green, it has thick leaves and stems. On the tip of the leaves is
plumped up with lighter color (kind of pods). This tips which are plumped up
are also covered with tomentum. It can be one foot long or even more. I think it is Fucaceae.
One plant is dark brown
or dark grey coral-like thing. It covers the side of the dock. There are tiny
white flower/star (about quarter inch big) shape thing all over the plant. It
is soft and about 2 inches long.I think that is Golden Star Tunicate.
One plant is dark or light green; it looks like a piece of board and flat lettuce,
but it is thinner than lettuce that it is a little bit translucent. The one we
found is as big as two of my hands.When
I touched it, it is slippy and a little bit sticky.I think that is Ulva Lactuca.
plant is light green and smooth. It has thin stems and almost no leaves. But it
seems have tiny aerial roots which are 5mm long on the stems. It also has
protuberances on the stems or on the tip of the plant.I think it is Knotted Wrack.
One plant is covering
or attached flatly to the dock like some kind of red painting. It is like a piece
of soft plastic since it is easy to break. It is very red like red velvet, and
it has tiny holes all over it.I think that is Velvety Red Sponge.
One plant is like a
tiny white Christmas tree with no leaves on it (or it is like rime covering the
plant) and waving in the water. It is fluffy in the water. The one I saw in the
water is more than 15 inches. I think it is wine glass hydroid.
This plant has a huge
root which is light orange color, its hundreds of branches or tentacles are
black with white tips, and they are waving in the water. As we use hand to touch
the tentacles’ edge (the white tip), the plants suddenly shrink immediately, and
then they open slowly after a while. I think it is Frilled Anemone
First animal I saw has
two pieces of black shells. The animals attach to the side of the bock under
the water. Most of them are open in the water as the inside color is pearl
white with light orange body parts. As soon as they are out of the water, the
shell shut tightly. It is long on the side and round on the two ends. The one I
saw is around 0.8 inch. There are carved lines on the whole shell, they look
like the growth rings on the trees that one line is after another tightly. I think that is Blue Mussel.
One tiny animal I saw
is shrimp-like animals. It looks like a tiny white or translucent shrimp with same
size of head, body and tail (shrimp’s head is bigger than the body as the body
is bigger than the tail). It doesn’t have carapace as shrimps so its head looks
shortened. It seems have four long antennaes. It moves its tiny legs and swims
in the water. I think it is Hyallela Azteca.
One animal I saw is a
stick-like animal. It is like the insect walking stick in the water. It is
either white or translucent. It has two long antennaes and two big arms with
six small legs at the end. It uses the six legs to attach to the Christmas
tree-like thing and jumps around by curling its body in the water and using six
legs and two arms. It is about half inch long. I think it is Smooth Skeleton Shrimp.
One animal I saw is a
huge size of shrimp with hard carapace and two huge claws. It also has two long
antennaes. It has different colors on it such as black body, red claws, orange
tail and green legs. It is about 30 inches long. I think it is Northern Lobster.
One animal I saw is
kind of crab with red or bright orange color. It has an oval-shape carapace
covering its back with white spots on it. It has eight stick-like legs and two
big claws. It is about 7 inches long. I think it is Jonah Crab.
Another animal I saw is
also a kind of crab which looks like an ugly rough rock with eight long sticky
legs. It is about 4 inches long and the legs are two times longer than the
body. It is excrement yellow from my point of view (sorry about saying that
color….). I think it is Common Spider Crab.
Another animal I saw is
a star-like animal. It is dark red or dark orange color with white lines and
dots sticking out from it. On the back it is yellow. At the front it is hard as
the back is soft. It is about one inch long. I think it is Asteriid Sea Star.
One animal I saw is
clear jelly-like thing. It is round like an umbrella with tentacles covering
its edge. In the middle of it, there are four circles which look like a
four-leave clover. It is floating in the water. It can be as small as half inch
or as big as 16 inches. I think it is Moon Jellyfish.
One animal I saw is big
white bird with grey wings, yellow beak and feet. It is paddling the water as
it tries to catch the sea species near the ocean surface. It is about 10 inches
long. I think it is Sea Gull.