Mussels Hunting, California

Today was another adventure, and a little bit different. I usually explore something historical but today we will go through my Marine Biologist skills. We’ve been planning this trip for several weeks now and we always failed to due to the rain and the low tide schedules. But now we finally made it to Bodega Bay and passed the small town northwards we came across a couple of beaches and to our destination of Portuguese Beach. But when we got there the shore was to steep of a descend so we looked for another one and finally found the nearby Schoolhouse Beach.

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Mussels everywhere

There were a couple of vehicles in the parking. I went down through the rock and it was very difficult but short while Dad took the long but easy route. We were the first one to go down to check if there were mussels. Fortunately, we were at the area and a giant rock at the coast was filled with mussels. Mom and my two aunts hurried down and started their mussel fishing with Dad. As for me I took my time and looked at this marvels.

Mussels

The most abundant in the area were the ones we were hunting, the mussels. They were busy taking out the mussels from the rocks using screwdrivers while I used my hand to help once in a while. Anyway, Mussels are bivalve mollusks under the marine family of Mytilidae and to the freshwater family Unionidae. Mussels were basically available throughout the world, but commonly found in cool seas. There were also some freshwater mussels known as Naiads, which could be found in streams, lakes, and ponds over most of the world.

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Mussels

“Marine mussels are usually wedge-shaped or pear-shaped and range in size from about 5 to 15 centimetres (about 2 to 6 inches). They may be smooth or ribbed and often have a hairy covering. The shells of many species are dark blue or dark greenish brown on the outside; on the inside they are often pearly. Mussels attach themselves to solid objects or to one another by proteinaceous threads called byssus threads; they often occur in dense clusters. Some burrow into soft mud or wood. Principal enemies of the mussel are birds (e.g., herring gulls, oystercatchers, ducks), starfishes, and dog whelks. 

Some species are important as food in Europe and other parts of the world and are raised commercially, it has been cultivated in Europe since the 13th century. Mussels are collected from deep water by means of dredges or rakes.

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More mussels

The capax horse mussel (Modiolus capax) has a bright orange-brown shell under a thick periostracum; its range in the Pacific Ocean extends from California to Peru. The Atlantic ribbed mussel (Modiolus demissus), which has a thin, strong, yellowish brown shell, occurs from Nova Scotia to the Gulf of Mexico. The tulip mussel (Modiolus americanus), from North Carolina to the Caribbean Sea, attaches itself to broken shells and rocks; its smooth, thin shell is usually light brown but sometimes has rosy or purple rays.”

So now we had a background about the mussels, and what kind of those found in the California coast. As I explored around I came across seaweeds floating on the water while some dangle around the rocks.

Seaweeds

Seaweeds have a variety of colors such as red, green and brown that cultivate around the seashores. Their rootlike “holdfasts” are usually secure at the bottom of the sea or rocks. Some seaweeds are edible while some can be use as fertilizers.

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Underwater seaweed

“Seaweeds often form dense growths on rocky shores or accumulations in shallow water. Many show a well-established zonation along the margins of the seas, where the depth of the water is 50 metres (about 165 feet) or less. The types of seaweed growing near the high-water mark, where plants are often exposed to air, differ from those growing at lower levels, where there is little or no exposure.

Brown algae (class Phaeophyceae) commonly found as seaweeds include kelps and Fucus. They are widely distributed in colder zones and are absent from tropical waters. The kelps are among the largest algae; certain species of Macrocystis and Nereocystis of the Pacific and Antarctic regions exceed 33 metres (100 feet) in length. Laminaria, another kelp, is abundant along both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.”

According to an article I read, putting seaweeds on your cooler can keep the mussels fresh for a period of time. The rocks were too slippery for me to get closer at the floating seaweeds so I didn’t take one. Instead I continued exploring around and caught sight at a number of Patrick Stars.

Starfish

Mostly hidden at the bottom of the rocks, the starfish were mostly huddle together. I picked up one and it felt hard while the other side was soft. I never thought of taking one as a souvenir and instead took plenty of photos to serve such purpose.

Hand drawn sketch of starfish in black isolated on white background. Detailed vintage style drawing. Vector illustration
Hand drawn sketch of starfish in black isolated on white background. Detailed vintage style drawing. Vector illustration.

Scientifically called as Sea stars, it has usually had five arms. They are hollow and, like the disk, covered with short spines and pedicellariae (pincerlike organs); on the lower side are grooves with rows of tube feet, which may be sucker-tipped or pointed. A sea star can lose one or more arms and grow new ones. Its tube feet enable it to creep in any direction and cling to steep surfaces. There are roughly 1,600 living species of sea stars occur in all oceans; the northern Pacific has the greatest variety. 

Primitive sea stars feed by sweeping organic particles that collect along the arm grooves into the mouth on the underside of the disk. Advanced forms either evert (turn outward) the stomach upon the prey (bivalve mollusks, coral polyps, other echinoderms) for external digestion or swallow the prey whole. The internal skeleton of the sea star consists of limy plates. Respiration usually is through skin structures. Light-sensitive spots occur at the tips of the arms.

Sea star reproduction typically is heterosexual, but hermaphroditism (reproductive organs of both sexes in one animal) occurs, and a few sea stars reproduce asexually by division of the body (fragmentation). Some brood their eggs and young; nonbrooders may release into the water as many as 2.5 million eggs at a time (see video of sea star life cycle).

Sea stars belong to three orders: Phanerozonia, Spinulosa, and Forcipulata. Edged sea stars, order Phanerozonia, have distinct marginal plates and therefore tend to be rigid. Members of the order have suction-tube feet; the anus may be lacking. Most of the deep-sea sea stars belong to this order, and many are burrowers. Albatrossasterrichardi has been taken at a depth of 6,035 metres (19,800 feet) near the Cape Verde Islands. The mud star (Ctenodiscuscrispatus), about 10 cm (4 inches) across, with blunt, short arms and a broad, yellow disk, is abundant worldwide on mud bottoms of northern coasts. 

Pisaster brevispinus—at 65 cm (26 inches) one of the world’s largest sea stars—inhabits the western coast of North America; it preys on other echinoderms known as sand dollars, which burrow to escape it. Perhaps the most common sea star of the American Pacific coast is P. ochraceus, a five-rayed species sometimes 35 cm (14 inches) across; it is usually reddish but has other colour phases. The many-rayed sunflower sea star (Pycnopodiahelianthoides) of Alaska to California has 15 to 24 arms and is often 60 cm (24 inches) across. Heliaster, a broad-disked, short-rayed genus of the western coast of Central America, may have as many as 50.”

A lot of scientific words which I barely know filled my brain, so I would leave most of the studies of the starfishes to the experts and continue on. Right beside the starfish on those giant rocks is camouflage, round, sponge like invertebrate.

Sea Anemone

Right beside the starfish is the jello things covered in small stones, and every time I poke it, it immediately shrinks as if scared. I had to do some research before finding out what they were and it was Sea Anemones.

“Sea anemone, any member of the invertebrate order Actiniaria (class Anthozoa, phylum Cnidaria), soft-bodied, primarily sedentary marine animals resembling flowers. They are found from the tidal zone of all oceans to depths of more than 10,000 metres (about 33,000 feet). Some live in brackish water. They are largest, most numerous, and most colourful in warmer seas. 

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Sea Anemone sketch

Actinarians exhibit great variety in shape and habit. The cylindrical body may be thick and short or long and slender. The oral disk, containing the mouth, at the upper end of the body is surrounded by petal-like tentacles, which are often present in multiples of six. Sea anemones are commonly yellow, green, or blue; they are typically attached by the pedal disk, or base, to a hard surface such as a rock, wharf timber, a seashell, or the back of a crab. Most seldom move; some occasionally creep very slowly or move in a slow somersaulting fashion. Members of certain genera (e.g., Edwardsia, Halcampa, Peachia) have no pedal disk but burrow deep into the sand or mud, exposing only the mouth and tentacles. 

Sea anemones have no solid skeleton but may secrete a horny covering. Some species have adhesive-secreting structures and cover themselves with grains of sand, bits of shell, or other foreign objects.

Nematocysts, microscopic stinging structures in the tentacles, are used to capture and paralyze prey such as fishes and other marine animals. Some species eat only microorganisms. Anemones are eaten by sea slugs, certain starfishes, eels, flounders, and codfish.

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Sea Anemone

Sea anemones often live in close association with other organisms. The hermit crab Pagurusarrosor carries a single anemone of the genus Calliactis on the snail shell it uses as a “house.” When the hermit crab grows too large for its shell, it moves to a new one, transplanting the anemone to the new shell. Similarly, the hermit crab Eupagurusprideauxi and the sea anemone Adamsia palliata are always found living together, never alone. Fishes of the genera Premnas and Amphiprion often live safely among the poisonous tentacles of an anemone such as a species of Stichodactyla, Radianthus, or Discosoma. Such fish, however, may be stung and eaten by other anemone individuals, even of the same species.”

So that’s the majority of sea creatures I saw on this another low tide day. I continue venturing around the giant rocks looking for other creatures, but I found the same kinds so I went back to my family and help them take out some mussels. Mostly, I took their pictures and we ended up filling up two buckets. Later we found out we were only allowed to take 7 lbs. worth of mussels.

On the way back we came across a dying crab and hoping it would survive I took it by the gradual rising water of the seashore, but his/her day had finally come. Carrying those two buckets I went up the hill to the parking lot and we went on our way. Thanks Britannica for the information about these particular sea creatures.

Here are links for more information:

https://www.britannica.com/animal/mussel

https://www.britannica.com/animal/sea-anemone

https://www.britannica.com/animal/sea-star

https://www.britannica.com/science/seaweed

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Say Cheez!

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