Beach Creatures

I used to complain about the seaweed on the beach, but not anymore. I have a deeper appreciation for all things on the beach, and love to explore the sand, rocks and everything else around me. When the winds and currents cause crazy waves, a lot of things get washed ashore, including sea creatures that are normally out in the open ocean. Last week, I found by-the-wind sailors after a windy day. I also discovered a few clear, hard tube-like things amongst the sea grass and kelp on the sand. I thought that a fisherman dropped some lures behind, because the tubes did not have tentacles, were not squishy, and were not moving.

Discovery at Crystal Cove State Beach (photo credit: Dawn Palmer, 2021).

After visiting Dana Point yesterday, I found even more of these oddities on the sand, just out of the intertidal zone. The tube-like creatures at Dana Point were slightly larger, and some were more pink or orange than the ones up at Crystal Cove. Now I knew that these things had to be more than fake fishing lures after seeing them at two different beaches.

Discovery at Dana Point (photo credit: Dawn Palmer, 2021).

Of course curiosity got the best of me, and I am a science nerd after all, so I did a little research online after my latest beach visit. It turns out these little tubes are actually animals called sea pickles!

Sea Pickle at Dana Point (photo credit: Dawn Palmer, 2021).

Sea Pickles actually house a colony of organisms, known as zooids. They are filter-feeders and float by the hundreds in the open ocean, filtering phytoplankton through the tube “house”. When the water temperatures rise and the winds and/or currents change, it is believed that these creatures can be swept onto the shoreline. Every once in a while, sea pickles can be found amongst the other debris washed up onto the beach…which just supports my belief that it pays to look closely at everything when at the beach!

What have you discovered in nature lately? Share in the comments below!

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