Detail from "Rain Dance," an original quilt by Sherrie Spangler

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sea stars, giant nudis and harbor lights!

An ochre sea star from Gig Harbor eating a mussel.

I know that sea stars eat shellfish by prying open the shells with their suction tube feet, inserting their stomachs into the hapless creatures and digesting their innards, but I never saw it in person until earlier this month.

Now you've seen it, too! That's an ochre star eating a mussel, above. Below is the same star all hunched up in the middle with the mussel held underneath.

The same star, hunched over its meal.

I was volunteering at the Harbor WildWatch touch tanks Dec. 3 while the crowds waited for Santa's arrival and the community tree lighting. One of our naturalists found the sea star and put it in our pool at the end of the dock, where I got to explain to everyone what was going on.

Another sea star in the touch tank.

But that wasn't the only activity on the pier that day. Check out the sea gull, bunnies, dogs and diver, all waiting for Santa and the lighting of the tree.

Miss Lizzy

Our Harbor WildWatch diver, Mike Behrens, gears up to jump into the chilly water and bring up interesting critters for the touch tanks.

I leaned over the water and took some photos of the marine creatures attached to the pier, with the blue sky and me reflected in the water.

This huge sea slug is the Dedronotus rufus.
The Puget Sound area has some HUGE sea creatures. One of our local marine biology experts, Dave Behrens, said this red-tipped nudibranch is the biggest Dedronotus rufus he's ever seen, and he's written books on nudibranchs! Look how big it is compared to the girl viewing it in the touch tank:

Nudibranchs are incredibly varied and beautiful. Look at the opalescent colored one below, the Dirona albolineata, sometimes called the "frosted nudibanch." Dave said they don't even get half this big in California.

The beautiful Dirona albolineata sea slug.
Nudibranchs are popularly called "sea slugs," although not all sea slugs are nudibranchs.

Kids love the Harbor WildWatch touch tanks.

Even the boats got into the Christmas spirit, decked out in colored lights while waiting for the big tree to be turned on. And here's that tree:

Have a colorful day!

1 comment:

Ladybug said...

Man - I've NEVER seen a nudibranch that large! The picture of the lighted boats is lovely! I think the Christmas spirit is slowly creeping this way...