Life in the Tide Pools

There’s been a lot of talk in the news lately about climate change, which is no surprise given the recent heat waves and fires. I see the evidence of climate change whenever I visit the beach, especially in the absence of tide pool life and the bleaching of animals that are there.

Bleached Sea Anemone at Crystal Cove State Beach (photo credit: Dawn Palmer, 2021).

It really brightens my day when I find life in the tide pools that isn’t damaged, such as California brown sea hares. I remember seeing many of these inching along the tide pools, munching on red sea lettuce and algae, back in the day. To find a full-grown sea hare in a tide pool today is rare.

There are many reasons why I wouldn’t normally find sea hares in the tide pools, including increased water temperatures, loss of habitat (decline in red lettuce and algae), and disruptions from tourists. These creatures blend in really well with the red lettuce they love to eat, and the smaller ones are easily squished by uneducated people that walk in the tide pools. I try to do my part by walking softly, with a keen eye for all living things in the area, and never touching or turning over things in the pools. I definitely cringe when I see tourists sitting inside a tide pool or turning over rocks and poking at things.

Perfect habitat for sea hares (photo credit: Dawn Palmer, 2021).

On this particular morning, when I saw her/him (yes, they’re both), I immediately pointed the sea hare out to the tourists clambering over the rocks nearby. I didn’t want them to squish any other sea hares!

California brown sea hare (photo credit: Dawn Palmer, 2021).

Most sea hares live further out in the tidal zones now, which is why we won’t see too many in the inner tide pools near the beaches. The younger sea hares live out in deeper waters, sometimes sixty to seventy feet away from the shoreline. On the morning that I found this adult sea hare, the tide was extremely low, exposing more rocks than usual. What drew my eye to this particular hare was the large amount of red lettuce and murky water around the tide pool. Those are usually tell-tale signs of sea hares in the area, since that’s their favorite food and they do tend to “ink” in the water (hence, the murky water).

My post is not meant to encourage everyone to get out there and climb all over the tide pools — quite the opposite, actually. I hope seeing these fascinating creatures, although rare nowadays, motivates people to be more careful when visiting the beach. If you want to learn more about California sea hares, here is a link to the local aquarium:

Published by Dawn Palmer

I am an avid nature and ecology lover and enjoy sharing my photography in my blog writings. I will often be out early in the morning or late in the evening with my camera, trying to capture the peacefulness and beauty around me.

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