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Preview: Wanderin' Weeta (With Waterfowl and Weeds)

Wanderin' Weeta (With Waterfowl and Weeds)

Nature notes and photos from BC, Canada, mostly in the Lower Fraser Valley, Bella Coola, and Vancouver Island.

Last Build Date: Sat, 17 Mar 2018 03:42:50 +0000


Caught in passing

Thu, 15 Mar 2018 22:59:00 +0000

I was watching hermit crabs in the aquarium when a red worm zipped by.

Spiny polychaete. Each "foot" is tipped with a brush, and armed above with a long spine.
He's tiny; on the right, three copepods are playing. They're about a millimetre long. The round dots along the edge of the shell are oyster eyes. And I don't know what that yellow and black striped creature (or tentacle, or foot) is, peeking out from between the folds of the oyster shell.

A large isopod reached out from a seaweed clump to investigate a mass of green-centred bubbles, probably disintegrating algae.

These isopods are plentiful under rocks and clutching rockweed in the intertidal zone. Sometimes they come home with me; they live happily in the tank for a while, until a crab catches them for dinner. As long as there is at least one branch of rockweed, they stay out of reach.

Miniature orange hermit

Wed, 14 Mar 2018 16:25:00 +0000

I bring home a handful of seaweed; sea lettuce, rockweed, maybe some Turkish washcloth, a blade or two of eelgrass; food and gym equipment for my hermit crabs. Before I add it to the tank, I wash it off in seawater, to remove any beach trash. And a sprinkling of apparent sand grains fall off, sprout legs, and race around the washbasin.These tiniest of hermits grow to fill an approximately 1/4 inch long shell, never more. I thought at first that they might have been immature hairy hermits that would darken as they grew, but I never see them move on to larger shells.They have orange legs with white bands. Sometimes they are big enough for me to see the antennae with the naked eye; it is green, with white bands. The legs and body are very slightly hairy.I've struggled, over the years, to find a clear identification of these hermits. At first, I was calling them greenmark hermits, Pagurus caurinus. A sort of match, at least for the orange colour and the size. And maybe some were greenmarks. But not all.One of the larger ones, still tiny, on an oyster shell. Not a greenmark.The greenmark hermit sometimes has the orange legs, and are tiny, but their antennae are red and unbanded. These have green, banded antennae and white pincer tips.I saw one out of his shell, freshly molted, and out looking for a larger (grain of rice sized) one.Pink striped body, purplish rear end, green banded antennae. Not a greenmark. Another in the background. Their legs are always clean, the colours sharp.I've searched everywhere I could think of; I can't find the match to this. There's another tiny orange hermit in this area, growing to 0.6 cm as an adult, the Brilliant, Parapagurodes hartae, but he is a brilliant orange all over, with little white banding. And I think, from the photos, that the antennae are orange, too.Another. The one in the background from the previous photo.The last crop of rockweed and a shell-full of sand brought a fresh batch to my tank. There must be at least a dozen, all racing around, climbing on and over everything. Cute little critters![...]


Tue, 13 Mar 2018 09:29:00 +0000

One of my largest hermits found a new shell I'd donated. He tried it on, and, as they do, fussed about for a while, squirming, disappearing into the back spirals, checking the fit and the weight. A second hermit noticed and hurried over.

"If it doesn't fit, can I have it?"

Hermit crabs are usually polite. Hairy Harry, in back, waited patiently while Big Red thought it over, still holding onto the old shell, just in case. When BG decided that the new shell suited him perfectly, and wandered away, HH examined the old shell, realized that it was broken (on the far side, not visible here), and gave up.

No hard feelings.

The hermits are: Hairy Harry, a hairy hermit, Pagurus hirsutiusculus. They like smaller shells that enable them to run and climb easily: and Big Red, a grainy hand hermit, Pagurus granosimanus. They love a shell big enough to completely hide inside; they don't mind if it's heavy and awkward. They're in no hurry.

Hairy Harry is still in his old shell, waiting for me to provide another.

Decorator colours

Mon, 12 Mar 2018 07:30:00 +0000

The plumose anemone in my tank has a brown column and  beige tentacles, a common combination. Often, though, they are white on white; a white column, and whiter tentacles. I had never seen one with a green head before.Plumose anemone, Metridium senile in the tidepool under the glacial erratic. With green tentacles.I browsed images on Google; I found a few white "Mets" with pale green tentacles, always in photos taken during a dive. This one is in a few inches of water. And that was the colour as my eyes saw it; I used the flash, because the anemone was in shade, but those tentacles were a definite blue-green.Another. This one has white tentacles, but the base is a pale blue.This one matches the one in my tank. Some of the red blotches around it are tubeworm "flowers".Another "normal" M. senile.Deep under the rock, starfish wait out the dry spell. The flat, spread out anemone seems to be a burrowing anemone, with its mouth exposed. Must have just eaten something. Maybe one of those little fish?More vivid colours. A deep pink tubeworm, still fishing while the water lasts. The pink-tipped green anemones below have shut down for now.Even the hermit crabs are wearing party colours. I spotted this one with those bright blue pincers, like the one I brought home last week.Three hermits, a dead kelp crab,and limpets. The deep red  critters at bottom right are not fish; they're shreds of seaweed.Kelp crabs are usually a dull olive green, sometimes greenish brown. I don't know if this one was joining the explosion of colour in his lifetime, or if there's some sort of blue-green algae that took over his carapace and legs after he died.This photo was taken aiming straight down into a foot-deep rounded hole. There are many of these near the bottom of the intertidal zone; circular holes, smooth-walled, looking like someone at some time removed a bowling ball from the rock. What causes this? I don't know.I am always on the lookout for nice whelk shells for my hermits at home. Here, around this erratic, there are many whelks, all healthy and shiny, but no empty shells. And almost every hermit crab I saw was wearing a smashed and broken shell. What happened to the fresh shells?I feel sorry for these hermits; the ones I brought home were quick to switch into intact shells; they do know the difference. I almost feel like collecting some decent shells from my tank and spreading them around this tide pool. Or would the tide immediately haul them off and slam them against the rocks until they were full of holes?Questions, questions.[...]

Just out of reach

Sun, 11 Mar 2018 09:46:00 +0000

I'm fascinated by the pool under the erratic boulder; I went back again today, and discovered new and amazing things again. More photos to be processed!So far, I've not found the area dry, so all the photos (and what I saw) are warped under a hand's length of wind-blown water. Some look like abstract paintings:A cozy home to assorted chitons, various anemones, starfish, encrusting pink algae, barnacles, whelks, and many hermits in smashed shells.5 or more chitons here. Look for the reddish girdle, with a paler central oval. A sample red-girdled chiton, very tiny, found on a rock. 8 pale shell segments and a red-brown girdle.Another of the black leather chitons. Several species live under this rock.The view from the access point. The second erratic, where the pool is, is on the far, far right.Today I walked around the point to a third, slightly smaller erratic, but couldn't quite reach it because the tide was too high, and I was keeping my so-called "waterproof" shoes dry. They can handle an inch of water, but no more, and it's a long walk back with squelchy socks.Another day, another low tide. At least the weather is finally cooperating.I brought home another Giant Pacific chiton, very dead; it's soaking now in hydrogen peroxide. If all works out, I'll eventually have photos of the internal shells.Next: surprising anemones.[...]

Sand trap

Thu, 08 Mar 2018 20:11:00 +0000

Another find on the same flat beach:Unidentified sponge, as found at the top of the intertidal zone.At home, dried and cleaned up. Sand still fills many of the pores. 7 inches diameter.The sponge had evidently been ripped out of its home and tossed up by the waves. It was still damp, and on the underside, where the sunshine didn't reach, it was orange. The green spots seem to be the green algae that grows on everything. Once the sponge was dry, the orange colour disappeared.Sponges are difficult to identify, especially out of context. (The Encyclopedia lists 26 undetermined sponges after their photos of named species.) I think this may possibly be an Orange Finger sponge, Neoesperiopsis rigida, a sponge I remember seeing on the underside of a local dock. They may be quite varied in shape and colour: INaturalist has a series of photos demonstrating this: pale orange, pink, brownish, but not green; long and skinny, or in rounded clumps.A sponge is an animal that is basically a filtration device. The "fingers" are hollow; water flows in through the porous walls and is pumped out through the larger upper opening. Food particles, tiny plankton, shreds of organic material, get filtered out along the way.A closer look at some of the "fingers".[...]


Wed, 07 Mar 2018 08:45:00 +0000

On a third visit to the sandstone and erratics beach, I discovered two of the largest chitons I have seen so far, unfortunately dead, left behind by the retreating tide.Giant Pacific chiton, aka gumboot chiton, Cryptochiton stelleri. This specimen was a bit over 6 inches long. Adults may grow to 14 inches.Quoting from my Encyclopedia:"The largest chiton in the world! The giant Pacific chiton's eight shells are completely and cryptically overgrown by girdle."No other chiton in this area has all 8 plates covered by the mantle, nor grows this large. (From mantle was eroded, firm and slightly porous. The shells were only visible as ridges underneath the flesh of the mantle. And from the underside, where the meat had been torn away.Upside-down chiton. Three shell shapes are exposed.This chiton has gills along the sides of the foot. The white lines in the grooves here may be bits of the gills. The mantle covers the whole top and laps over the edges, leaving only the foot exposed. Here, it has retracted somewhat as it dried.These chitons (at least other, less unlucky, members of their families) may live up to 20 years, never straying more than a few metres from home base, at the bottom of the intertidal zone and a bit further out to sea.Google image of the beach. Access is from a driveway-length road, Shell Road.Shell Road Beach location[...]

Making do

Sat, 03 Mar 2018 07:18:00 +0000

On a wide, flat beach, the tide races in and out, even as it creeps up more sloped shores. The current polishes rocks, re-shapes sand structures, digs holes behind stones. On sandy shores, mobile critters hurry to grab onto stones, scramble underneath seaweed, or burrow deep into the sand. On Boundary Bay, I have seen an incautious hermit crab, caught in the open as the water receded, swept off his feet and out to deeper water, rolling over and over helplessly.On a hard sandstone base, the challenges are tougher. Where to hide? A scrap of broken stone, a clump of rockweed, maybe a ledge between sandstone plates. But the safe spots are few and far between. Life gets difficult.On the sandstone flats last week, I was again looking for whelk shells for my growing hermits. In an hour of walking, I saw a half-dozen live whelks. But only two empty shells, both smashed and useless. (Or so I thought at the time.)There were other snails, plenty of them, all tiny and tinier. Many of them turned out to be leftovers now being worn by tiny hermit crabs. I picked up a teaspoon-full to examine at home.In a tide pool, I noticed a couple of larger hermits. And these demonstrated the difficulty of finding proper clothing in a whelk-shell desert; the shells they were wearing were all badly broken, some barely there. I took pity on several and brought them home.In a tray at home. Grainy hand hermit in holey shell, and one of the tinies, also in a broken shell.Hairy hermit in half a shell.Another hairy hermit, in the tank now, on the prowl searching for a better shell.At home, I looked them over, then added them to the aquarium. A few minutes later, one was wearing a new white shell. Several others were busy inspecting the assortment on offer. By evening, they were all properly dressed.Amazing blue pincers on this grainy hand hermit! He's wearing one of the newer shells, but still wondering if another would fit better. In the end, he stayed with the first one.The tiny hermits, some just bigger than a pinhead, are mostly black and white-legged ones, with a few of the tiny orange hermits. Many of them also needed new shells, but my tank is well stocked; they are all happily trundling about in their new outfits.[...]

Leopard skin and sequins

Thu, 01 Mar 2018 09:13:00 +0000

I found this sculpin lying on the beach, still bright and richly patterned, even as he lay dead.

He's about 8 inches long.

The belly and tail are a black and tan leopard skin print, the head is decorated in sequinned sunbursts, continuing down the sides with shiny chevrons. And look at those icicle-turquoise spines at the sides!

Zooming in.

I think this is a buffalo sculpin, Enophrys bison; these are extremely variable in colour and pattern, but the raised scales down the sides and the long spines at the back of the cheeks are distinguishing features. Most of the buffalos have several white or light-coloured bands across the body; this one has two.

Under a glaring sun

Tue, 27 Feb 2018 10:20:00 +0000

Where the intertidal flats are mostly flat slabs of sandstone, critters that usually hide in the sand under rocks when the water recedes, quickly burrowing deeper when their rocks are flipped, either just put up with unfiltered sunlight, or cling tightly to the underside of what few stones are available. There's nowhere to run.

A half-dozen hermit crabs and a Wosnesenski's isopod struggle to stay in the shade of a trio of mussels. I replaced their stone roof gently where I found it.

The sand is a thin dusting on the sandstone. There's no shelter for the critters that can't run and hide elsewhere.The anemones here are under about a half-inch of water.

The green algae, the red seaweed, and the anemones don't mind the sunlight. Even at full tide, they're exposed to it, just slightly shaded by the clear water.
This green algae is probably the same one that pollutes my aquarium, always growing first on the walls closest to the light. The pink-tipped green anemones also benefit from sunlight; they do not photosynthesize, being animals, but carry symbiotic algae in their tissues; these algae produce enough food for themselves and some over for the anemone that hosts them.


Mon, 26 Feb 2018 00:33:00 +0000

The sandstone shore around the glacial erratic I visited last week, exposed at mid-tide, is densely populated by large barnacles. Millions of them; billions, maybe.Thatched acorn barnacles*; one small patch.I felt guilty, walking across this beach: crunch, crunch: at every step I could hear breaking shells. I tried to find spots with no barnacles to put my feet down, but there were few.At one point, I turned and examined the barnacle I had just stepped on. There it stood, undisturbed, solid as ever. How strong are those shells? I think, possibly, the crunches I heard were dead, empty shells; they seem easy to break, from the right angle. More experiments are needed.Stone formation, with barnacles, oysters, gull and more.Farther down the beach, below the erratic, a few slabs of stone stood like a fence against the waves. Here, I found more barnacles, and a scattering of oysters, each one firmly cemented to the rock. The dark green stuff is rockweed.More than meets the eye.All across this plain, and crammed into every niche in the rocks, tiny critters go about their business, dwarfed by the barnacles. Looking closely, I found hundreds of pinhead snails. (But when I brought a handful home, most of them contained miniature orange-legged hermit crabs.) In the photo above, only one hermit crab is identifiable, but most of the blue-black snails are probably hermits, too. In the lower third, left of centre, a yellow patch is made up of whelk egg cases. And here and there, limpets try to blend into the rock.Empty barnacle shell and black rock algae.I brought home a few barnacles to clean my tank and feed my barnacle-loving snails. Checking them over before I added them to the aquarium, I found several healthy flatworms. No matter how strong a barnacle shell may be, these worms can slither through the cracks between plates, kill and eat the barnacle inside. Some flatworms may even eat the oysters.*Barnacles may be hard to identify, but the thatched acorn has a black feeding foot. The barnacles that came home with me all have black cirri.[...]

Katy in black leather

Sat, 24 Feb 2018 00:24:00 +0000

The afternoon was sunny and warm, although the previous afternoon's snow still had not melted. Favouring my gimpy leg, I chose a beach for walking that is flat, flat, flat. Mostly hard sandstone, covered with rockweed; not too slippery, easy going.I followed the tide out. At the base of an erratic, I found a community of whelks and chitons.The erratic as first seen, about 3/4 tide.Now, half an hour later, the water barely reaches the base. I could walk there.I am always intrigued by these erratics, left behind by the glaciers eons ago. It's as if they levelled the ground, rolling it like a lawn, leaving only faint scratch marks, and then, on a whim, dropping a great chunk of rock in the middle. This one is about 4 metres tall (13 feet), judging by my height; I could not quite reach the green/yellow mark where the usual high tide covers the stone and barnacles.At the base of the stone, on the seaward side, several chitons rested in a shallow pool.I think this is the black leather (Black Katy) chiton, Katharina tunicata.These grow to about 6 inches long; the ones I saw were around 3 inches. I touched a couple; they are hard and leathery, and were firmly attached to the rock.Another, almost a blue-black. To get these photos, I had to balance on three points, feet on wobbly stones, leaning a shoulder against the rock on the far side of the pool, hoping not to fall in, trying to keep the camera dry. I'll try again another day, after the tide has fallen more.Several chitons here, in a deeper spot in the pool. Two black Katies, and two much smaller, nicely patterned chitons, possibly lined chitons, Tonicella lineata. The star is a leather star, Dermasterias limbricata.More on this beach's residents, tomorrow.[...]

A Calculating Eye

Thu, 22 Feb 2018 17:31:00 +0000

I was carrying a plastic bag, collecting plastic trash on the beach.The gulls must have thought it was old bread, or some other unwise addition to their diet; they mobbed me. This one could not be convinced I had nothing for her and followed me, glaring at me and my selfishness.

"Come on, share the goodies!"

After the recent stormy weather, the beach was littered with scraps. I made three trips up to the park to dump my bag of trash in less than half an hour.

All new colours

Wed, 21 Feb 2018 08:37:00 +0000

Sparkling clean! This grainy hand hermit is freshly molted, and hasn't accumulated any of the usual dust, algae, and random critters that he usually carries.

Pagurus granosimanus

Bright orange,deep red, and yellowy-greens, pale blue spots on his legs.

The shell, of course, is still covered in algae. He discarded the old one, and picked up one a size larger, but not one of the fresh, white ones I brought last week. Sometimes the old jeans are just more comfortable.

Algae-eating art

Sun, 18 Feb 2018 17:32:00 +0000

"Woody", the chiton in my tank, is bigger and prettier every time I see him.

Woody chiton, Mopalia lignosa

The head end is at the top in this photo; the individual plates point towards the head. These chitons get their name, Woody, or M. lignosa, (Latin: lignum = wood.) from the wood-grain pattern of the plates. (They remind me most of Pacific Northwest First Nations' art work or totem pole figures, because of their shape and the thick lip around each plate. Sample: Tlingit carving, Bear panel.)

On the surrounding mantle, each round white dot supports a short, fattish, cream-coloured hair, visible at lower right in the photo at full size. (Click, click)

He is now a bit over two inches long, about 2/3 his maximum size. The dark red patches are an encrusting algae.

He used to stay on the old moon snail shell, but since I added this slab of sandstone to the tank, he has moved there, taking only the occasional walkabout off-site. He eats the green algae and any diatoms he finds.

I aten't ded

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 11:02:00 +0000

... but I've been mostly off-line for a few days.

Hurt my shoulders, tensing up trying to reduce the strain on a gimpy leg, hurt my hands carrying the camera trying to reduce the strain on my shoulders, ended up aching and frozen stiff all over, unable to sit up or to handle the mouse. Meanwhile, the computer crashed and ate all my recently processed photos.

Finally got back on-line, looked at the news briefly- disgusting! Will we never learn? Went back to bed, and pulled the blanket over my head.

But I aten't ded yet!

And I found and rescued a (photo of a) gull with a feather in his beak.

Tyee Spit

Ah, Tyee Spit on a sunny afternoon. Where families and friends amble peacefully along the paths, tiny children test out their training-wheeled bikes, someone throws a ball for a dog, an old man rests on a bench with his eyes closed, soaking in the warmth of the sun. Where a toddler runs towards the beach, yelling, "Crab! Crab! I find a crab!" Where the worst that may happen is a bit of childhood road rash. Or that the crab scuttles away too fast for tiny fingers.

Where the gulls squabble at water's edge, pigeons wheel from playground to hangar roof, and the eagle sits atop the tallest tree, keeping watch.

Why can't everywhere be like this?


Wed, 14 Feb 2018 01:25:00 +0000


First of the season

At Tyee Spit

And my snowdrops are up.

The weather is back to the norm; it's raining. But the snowdrops and crocuses are up! Let it rain!

Round trip

Mon, 12 Feb 2018 09:11:00 +0000

Third sunny day in a week!

I went to Salmon Point and walked the beach, looking for whelk shells for my hermits, who are growing out of the last batch. An hour of difficult walking, casting up and down the slope, over loose sand, round rocks, tossed-up logs. On the way back, I took the path through the small forest, looking at moss and lichens, and past Woodhus Slough, keeping an eye out for waterfowl, following side trails to look at the water.

I'm not used to it, after this rainy winter  (and a leg injury, to boot); I came home, dropped the shells into the tank, and limped into the bedroom. Woke up 6 hours later, stiff and sore.

And one of the hermits is wearing his nice, new, white shell!

I saw a flicker, a raft of buffleheads, a flock of Canada geese, mallards sleeping and flying, all far across the fields and the slough. My photos will end up posted on the Facebook page, "The worst bird photographs ever."

Well, maybe you can forgive me a photo of the flicker.

Basking in the sunshine

I took one step closer, and he flew away.

Woodhus Slough, glittering in the unaccustomed sunlight. No birds here.

All in all, totally worth the sore leg!

Looks yummy

Sat, 10 Feb 2018 11:34:00 +0000

Supper is being served ...

Thatched acorn barnacle, Semibalanus cariosus and floating prey

Blue sky and water, green critter food.

Fri, 09 Feb 2018 19:37:00 +0000

So the rain stopped. The sun showed up. Half unbelieving, I grabbed the camera and went to the beach.Waves rolling in, long shadows. Looking north towards Oyster Bay.The wind was brisk, and cold. But out of the shadows, it almost felt like spring. I unzipped my jacket.Looking south. Although it is still early afternoon, 1:30 PM, the sun is dropping and the shadows are long.Splash! Waves hitting rock at the northern tip of the breakwater.Gull on the rocks.And I got too close. I came home with a bag of freshly uprooted eelgrass, brought in by the waves, some Turkish towel, a shred of sea lettuce, two species of rockweed, a length of seersucker kelp, one small fragment of the invasive wire weed, Sargassum muticum, and a few branches of the beautiful sea braid, Plocamium cartilagineum. All except the kelp, which turned out to be past its sell-by date, went into the aquarium. All the hermits, some of the snails, and the crab have been feasting and climbing ever since.There were also many lumps of some sort of spongy, but firm stuff. It looked sort of like a sponge, but none I had seen before. I collected a fair amount. At home, under a lens, it seems to have no structure, no sponge pores or canals. Under the microscope, it is a loose association of round cells, each seeming to be independent. There is still no structure to be seen.I can't find it in my books, nor on the web. I'll try to get a decent photo this afternoon.The hermits and snails loved it; they're working on their second clump now.[...]

Worm caves and oyster grins

Thu, 08 Feb 2018 16:05:00 +0000

I bought an old abalone shell in a garage sale for a buck, 11 years ago. It sat on a shelf until I decided to use it in the aquarium as a hermit crab gym set. It has been very popular. The plumose anemone has chosen it as her permanent base, worms have built their tubes on the back, limpets sleep on the shiny floor, and the hermits still climb to the top to look at the world.Over these ten years, much of the shell has dissolved into the water, and assorted algae have coated the rough outer side, creating interesting patterns. And colonies of tiny worms have made their homes in the pores, by now eroded into deep caves.Outer rim of abalone shell, with algae and wormsAbalone shell, before being tanked, 2007. The outer shell is porous. The barnacle and tubeworm remains dissolved long ago.The oyster, picked up on the beach after a storm, has been here only a few months. The shell was scrubbed white by wind and waves, but tank algae are at work here, too. And the oyster, not in the least fazed, is grinning.Toothy grinsThe oyster is a filter feeder, and pumps large volumes of water in, over the gills, where edibles are caught in mucus and moved down to the mouth.  What looks like teeth in those smiles are tiny tentacles. The gills are just behind them, sometimes visible when the oyster opens a bit wider.[...]

Spring fever already

Wed, 07 Feb 2018 13:30:00 +0000

I turned over an oyster in my tank and crashed an amphipod party.It's orgy season!The amphipods scattered, but most of them were moving slowly because they were travelling in pairs. The male chooses a female and holds onto her until she's ready to mate, sometimes for a week. In this photo, I caught 4 couples and one lonely singleton.Spring is on its way; even in my tank, inside, away from the tides and disrupted by on-again-off-again lighting, the critters know it. Several of the male hermit crabs are dragging around their chosen mates, too. And the anemones are multiplying like rabbits.Pink-tipped green anemone, "Stretch", splitting in two.Most of these anemones elongate to about twice their width, and then separate, but this one is ambitious and has spent several days stretching out to start the clone at a good distance from the parent. I just went to measure it; from one end to the other, it's 7 cm. And now the bridge between is shredding. By this afternoon, the youngster will set off on his own path.This species of anemone is capable of reproducing both sexually and asexually. As adults, A. elegantissima release gametes into the water that join to form genetically unique individuals that settle on intertidal rock. This genetically distinct individual can then proliferate through binary fission. (Wikipedia, Aggregating anemone)"Stretch" may be slightly confused as to the time of year; sexual reproduction starts in February, but the resulting gametes are usually released in summer. However, two weeks ago, before starting the stretching exercises, this anemone released a whitish cloud from its mouth. There's a YouTube video showing a spawning anemone here; this is what "Stretch" was doing.These anemones, Anthopleura elegantissima, are either male or female (many others are hermaphrodites) and groups that have reproduced by splitting are clones, all the same sex. So spawning in my tank may be a wasted effort; the whole colony may be all males. Or females. (The only way I could know for sure would be to break the anemone off its site and look for sex organs; the female's are brownish pink, and the male's are yellowish white.)[...]

High flyer

Tue, 06 Feb 2018 11:03:00 +0000

The ocean surface temperature along the east coast of Vancouver Island varies from about 6.5 degrees Celsius in February to a maximum of approximately 13.5 in August, our hottest month. (That's 45 Fahrenheit to 55 F.) My aquarium sits in a warmish room, with an average temperature of 20 to 21 degrees Celsius in the winter, more in summer. It's too hot for my intertidal invertebrates here, even in midwinter.

I keep everybody happy and healthy by adding ice to the tank. I freeze tank water in yogurt containers that have never seen detergent (which will poison some of the animals) and exchange them for the ones floating at the top of the tank several times a day. It's not pretty, but it works.

This morning, when I went to change the ice, I found a naked hermit riding the yogurt container. How he got up there, I don't know; he can't swim.

Hairy hermit, freshly molted.

When hermit crabs molt, they have to leave their shell. Often it won't fit any more when the molt is finished; all their growing happens in those few minutes between a molt and the hardening of their new skin.

They're vulnerable in this situation. Crabs aim for that juicy, curly abdomen. Fish, too. Luckily, there are no fish in this tank, but there's one big, starving (to hear her tell it) green shore crab. So the hermits head for the highest spot they can find to wait out the growing time. This one somehow found his way onto the iceberg.

It was a good choice. He'd already been damaged; he's missing his main defensive weapon, the large pincer on his right side. He uses the smaller one on the left to manipulate his food.

To replace the ice, then, I removed the yogurt container carefully, hermit and all. I put him into a bowl with a few empty shells for him to choose between whenever he was ready. 5 minutes later, he was dressed and rarin' to go. He had probably been waiting on the floating container for some time, not knowing how to get off without risking dropping into the waiting crab pincers.

With a good shell (according to him: he chose a broken one, well worn and covered with algae. He knows what feels best.) he went safely back into the tank.

(Look back at the photo. Look at the first foot on the upper left. It's not usually apparent that the legs are basically transparent, but here you can see the design on the yogurt container showing through.)


Mon, 05 Feb 2018 15:04:00 +0000

Chia, having subdued the vicious throw rug, remains alert. The twilight is fraught with dangers!

On guard, 24/7

Fading to yellow

Sat, 03 Feb 2018 13:42:00 +0000

Pink-tipped green anemone in winter colours.Anthopleura elegantissimaOut on the shore, these anemones are green, with pink or very pink tips. In the tank, and especially over winter, they gradually lose the green algae that give them their colour. These algae need sunlight to grow. Indoors, there are only a few hours of filtered sunlight; in winter, in my apartment, they get only artificial light.Most are olive to bright green (depending on the species of algal symbionts present) with tentacles tipped in pink. Individuals that live in microhabitats that are deficient in photosynthetically active radiation (PAR), such as under docks or in caves, lack symbionts and are pale yellow to white in color. (Wikipedia)The anemones on our shores are a very bright green, unless they're hiding under deep rock overhangs.Anemones, Edgewater beach, 2009From a paper referenced in this Wikipedia post: " ... anemones display phototactic behavior and may  move to regions of the cave that produce the best physiological fit between host and symbiont species." (David Secord, 2005)This may possibly hint at the reason all of the pink-tipped green anemones in my tank congregate along the front wall, where the light is stronger.The internal algae, busily converting sunlight and carbon to carbohydrates, provide oxygen to the anemone hosts as a by-product. Without this, the anemones survive, but do not reproduce as quickly. However, in my tank, a year ago, there were 5 of these anemones. I counted this afternoon; now there are 19, and one is busy splitting in two, to make it 20.Morning sunlight should be arriving at their window sometime in April. If it's strong enough (I may re-direct it with a mirror to be sure), some of the green colour may return.Looking again at the first photo, I am reminded that a powdery green algae grows everywhere in the tank, on walls, shells, even on hermit crab carapaces. But not inside the anemones; it's obviously not the correct species. And it likes artificial light.[...]