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October 2009

Jo O'Keefe Copyright 2009. Photos may be used for educational purposes only. Contact me with inquiries.

Raeta plicatella
Channeled Duckclam
Channeled Duckclam, Raeta plicatella, Sunset Beach, NC, 10/30/09
 
fish mandible
Fish Mandible, Sunset Beach, NC, 10/30/09
A 5-pound dog who captured my heart and rode in the basket of my beach cart
 
Hepatus epheliticus
Hepatus epheliticus
Calico Box Crab Shell with barnacle and bryozoan crust -- Sunset Beach, NC, 10/30/09
Calico Box Crab, Hepatus epheliticus, Sunset Beach, NC, 10/16/09 -- I am posting this photo here to show the differences in the patterns.
 
bryozoa
bryozoa
The above two photos are full-resolution. I have posted them to show the fine patterns made by the Bryozoa that lived on them.
 
asterias forbesii

Forbes Sea Star -- Asterias forbesii, Sunset Beach, NC, 10/23/09

A week ago I explained the misnomer "starfish" to visitors on Sunset Beach. At Sunset Beach Forbes and Striped Sea Stars, Luidia clathrata, are found most frequently. Far from being fish, spiny sea stars are Echinoderms. Most sea stars and their relatives are divided into five parts. For example, many sea cucumbers have five rows of tube feet. Ocean water is filtered through the small red madreporite on the Forbes sea star before entering the water vascular system. Tube feet on the oral side of the sea star, filled with water and ending in suction cups, enable the sea star to grip the surface (substrate) and crawl and to ensnare prey. One sea star can devour seven clams per day.

You can determine if a sea star is alive three ways. Holding it upside down at eye level, look for movement of tube feet. If they move, it is alive. Alternative methods are to place it on the sand or in a container of water. It will crawl on the sand or climb or curl up in water.

   
American Coot
Fulica americana
American Coot, Fulica americana, with green legs and lobed feet, Calabash, NC, 10/22/09
Green Porcelain Crab
Spineback Hairy Crab
Green Porcelain Crab, Petrolisthes armatus, Sunset Beach, NC, 10/20/09; microscope photo
Spineback Hairy Crab, Pilumnus sayi, Sunset Beach, NC, 10/20/09; microscope photo
Eudistoma capsulatum
Colonial Tunicate, Eudistoma capsulatum, Sunset Beach, NC, 10/20/09 -- the first I have found at Sunset Beach, identified by researcher Linda Cole at the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution
 
Eudistoma hepaticum
Colonial Tunicate, Eudistoma hepaticum, Sunset Beach, NC, 10/20/09
 
Marginated Sea Star
   
Astropecten articulatus
Beaded Sea Star
Beaded Sea Star beneath sand in shallow water -- moving toward me in right photo, Astropecten articulatus, Sunset Beach, NC, 10/17/09

My experience with this sea star was amazing. Early in my walk I saw a man and woman in the distance looking down at something. When I reached them, I asked what it was. They told me that they had put a beautiful purple" starfish" in a tide pool and that it had sunken into the sand. Only the center was visible. Assuring them that I would return it to the water, I removed it for photos and then put it back in the water. It promptly sank.

At that point two boys approached, one holding something in a shirt. One asked if we wanted to see a big snail that they had named "Dale the Snail." They asked what it was, if it could hurt them and how to keep it alive at their cottage. Dale was four to five inches long. I set Dale on the ground to watch him gyrate. Meanwhile, I asked the man and woman to show the boys the sea star.

Dale the Snail began to pivot and crawl and the Beaded Sea Star began to move toward me. Dale, the True Tulip shown below, was coated with Sabellarid worms and their tubes, barnacles and small slippersnails. Because the boys were eager to leave, I did not have a chance to scrape off Dale's burden or to take more photos.

Before long I met two young women, I think from Winston-Salem. They were curious about everything we saw. We walked separate ways for more than an hour before meeting again. After we walked together again for awhile, I told them that earlier I had seen a sea star. Although I found the miniature inlet where I thought it had been and a shard of shell that I had seen earlier, I did not see the sea star. One of the women found it. The Beaded Star had been in the same spot for more than an hour. They were able to see its tube feet moving, show it to a friend, watch it sink down again, and stand protectively as two large dogs and their owners approached.

Fasciolaria tulipa
True Tulip
True Tulip, Fasciolaria tulipa, live, Sunset Beach, NC, 10/17/09
 
Hepatus epheliticus
Calico Box Crab
Hepatus epheliticus
Calico Box Crab, Hepatus epheliticus, Sunset Beach, NC, 10/16/09
At the end of my walk I found this Calico Box Crab far up on the wet intertidal zone -- the area that had been covered by high tide and was now exposed and drying during low tide. I find many marine animals surfacing as air dries out that sand, reducing the pressure on them. After its photo shoot, I returned the crab to the ocean only to have second thoughts. Because it is missing walking legs and a swim paddle, I decided it might live longer in my salt water aquarium and brought it home.
Spartina alterniflora
Spartina alterniflora

Newly planted Smooth Cordgrass, Spartina alterniflora, our most common marsh grass, at the bend of Jinks Creek, Sunset Beach, NC, 10/16/09

Island Park Cottages on Ocean Isle Beach are in the background. Photos taken in steady rain.