Saturday, August 2, 2008

Barking Crab dock observations-Sean

Today we went down to see what was living under the dock by the Barking Crab. I was not sure what to expect, probably some slimy seaweed and barnacles came to mind. I was surprised to see a variety of life in many different sizes and some quite colorful. I used several tools to make and record my observations including a small pocket knife, pen, note pad, and a copy of the National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Seashore Creatures. A magnifying glass would have been very useful and a plastic bag to bring home samples, however I did not have these available. The weather was warm (mid-70’s) mostly sunny with calm water and visibility in the water of approximately 1’-1.5’.

I first took a sample consisting of a mussel shell. After reviewing my guide I was able to determine that this mussel was a Blue Mussel. This mussel was no longer living, however immediately we discovered many small creatures resembling tiny “bugs” moving around the shell. Some were very small and hard to see and others were larger and easier to see in detail. They appeared to have an oval shaped body with four pairs of legs and a long “hook” like tail that they appeared to grab with. After exhausting my field guide and the other resources that Mr. Berman gave us I have been unable to identify these creatures and unfortunately I do not have a photograph to post so others can look as well. They might in fact be adolescent or baby skeleton shrimp that I observed after.

My second sample was an orange jelly like mass attached to one of the mussel shells. It was approximately the same width and length of the full grown mussel shell (3”-5”) around. It appeared to have a “brain coral” like design underneath a clear jelly like surface. This organism was surprisingly firm to the touch as it appeared to be jelly like. After a little research in my seashore creatures guide and the “hitchhikers guide” I believe that this creature is an Orange Sheath Turnicate.

A second sample had an Orange Sheath Turnicate connecting a couple mussel shells as well as some seaweed. The seaweed had a lettuce like shape, was translucent and bright green. None of the guides I have had available helped me identify this seaweed. After poking around in the seaweed I observed long “bug” like creatures. They were larger than the other unidentified creatures and were easier to see. They appeared to have a few segments and a few pair of legs or antennae on one end. The middle segment was the longest and had a pair of significantly longer and thicker legs that reminded me of a grasshoppers’ hind leg. On the other I saw a small pair of legs or antennae and a pair of long appendages. This creature appears to be a form of skeleton shrimp, however I am not exactly sure which one.

The last sample I looked at was shared with me by my neighbors and was a mussel shell with several small anemones. They were clear on the outside and had a cream colored core. In the water they sprouted hundreds on tiny threads. It was interesting to see that they immediately “closed-up” when brought out of the water. Their appearance and habitat indicated that they might be Frilled Anemones.

Most samples of mussels included baby mussels attached to the outside of the shells.


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