Countless invertebrates float in the water or on the rocks of the breakwater. This time around we’ll look at just a few of them. A guide book such as The Beachcomber’s Guide to Seashore Life in the Pacific Northwest by J. Duane Sept (Harbour Publishing) can help a lot. Remember: Just look!
Often, moon jellyfish and lion’s mane jellyfish (the spectacular fellow below) are swept into the harbour side of the breakwater.
Also floating in the water may be the exoskeletons of dungeness crabs (right). The skeletons of crabs and other arthropods need to be shed as they grow because they are on the outside of the body and most of the “dead” crabs seen on beaches ar actually just cast-off empty bodies.
The Moon snail is another oddity. Its shell is about the size of a coffee saucer and sports what looks like an eye in the middle of the spiral (when seen through a foot or two of water from the top of the breakwater) but its body is about the size of a soccer ball. It’s been spotted somersaulting in the calm inner bay.
Orange Sea cucumbers and long white anemones sprout from the rocks. Although they are plant-like in appearance, anemones are in the same group (Division or Phylum) as the jellyfish and have sting cells in their tentacles as well.
Chitons are prehistoric-looking critters that you can spot on the rocks. The most common is the Black Katy Chiton; sometimes there’s an aptly named Gumboot chiton (below) —about a foot of orange or pink amorphous-looking goop.
Commonly known as starfish, you can see various types of seastars including the purple seastar (which may be orange), the Sunflower seastar (the pink spiky thing in the middle of the picture, below) and the Sunstar, the giant pink star—all can be very large. Also leather stars and blood stars.
On the granite blocks of the breakwater are numerous barnacles. The gooseneck barnacle (below) is particularly striking with its leathery stalk Barnacles are crustaceans (related to crabs and shrimp) and can withstand the extreme conditions of driness and wave action high up in the intertidal.. When covered with water they can be seen filtering the water with their legs.