Thursday, June 26, 2014


While we have been bombarded with bad news concerning the situation with sea star wasting syndrome on local beaches, not to mention the West Coast from B.C. to Mexico, there is a ray of sunshine out there.
There seems to be a healthy and large population of juvenile stars of both the Purple and Mottled species (Pisaster ochraceus, Evasterias troschelii) in Puget Sound.  Usually the juveniles hide out under rocks in Summer and are not often seen, but this year they are seen in some places out in the open during the day.  During our survey at Constellation Marine Reserve in February we observed 15 juveniles in our study area in the open......none are seen there now in the Summer but they are quite common under rocks and on the underside of Moon Snail sand collars.   A block of old bricks turned up 8 small stars...of both species.  Hiding under rocks no doubt makes them much less vulnerable to the local gull population.  In Winter the gulls are not actively feeding at night and the little stars stay more out in the open.  Winter also provides cooler temperatures and no damaging UV light from the Sun.  While there have been some sightings of small stars with wasting syndrome most appear to be healthy.....hopefully they will stay that way as they increase in size and age.

Special thanks to Professor Joel Elliott of the Biology Department at the University of Puget Sound for additional information concerning sea star wasting syndrome and local populations of young stars.

Sea Star Wasting article in Seattle Times
Mottled Star on Moon Snail sand collar

Mottled Star on sand collar

Mottled Star on sand collar

Juvenile Stars on brick block

Purple and Mottled Stars (small)

Purple Stars (small)

Purple Stars with Frilled Whelks

Friday, June 20, 2014


Click on the link below for the latest update on Sea Star Wasting Syndrome:

Additional UPDATE 6-25-14
Two additional surveys were completed on June 24 and 25.
The first survey was completed at the North end of Constellation Marine Reserve and showed an infection rate of 44%.
The second survey was completed at the breakwater just South of the Constellation Marine Reserve boundary at Alki South.  The infection rate was 82% with 7 dead stars counted.

Gull eating sea star with wasting syndrome

Alki S. Breakwater  82% infection level

Sunday, June 15, 2014


While exploring the beach at Schmitz Park I discovered a Moon Snail (common event) that was almost completely above the surface...only a little buried in the sand.  I picked it up to show some of the beach goers and do some natural history.....geeze I'm a ham.
Upon lifting the snail I quickly noticed that something was hanging out from the mantle....some little pink thing that I had not seen before.....It stuck me that it was not likely the mouth, but I checked around for clams in the area and found none...but I did find another Moon Snail directly under the location where the first one was before I picked it up......BRAIN FLASH.... this is a male Moon Snail and that little pink thing is his penis.....I just broke up a love affair in the sand.  This poor guy just missed his chance to become a father on father's day because of embarrassing.  The plus side of all this privacy invasion is that I had finally, after 40 years, found a Moon Snail that I could definitely sex as a male.  I could sex females before because I caught them in the act of laying eggs which males, of course, don't do.
So below are a series of images....first one is how I found the Moon Snail;  second one of the Moon Snails penis and lastly the pair, male and female side by side....and no doubt not happy with me.
HAPPY FATHER'S DAY....DADS...evidently you had better luck than the Moon Snail.


Thursday, June 12, 2014


A seven foot Clubhook Squid (Onykia robusta) washed up on Alki Beach on 6-12-14.  The Clubhook Squid is one of the largest in the Pacific and commonly reaches mantle lengths of 150cm.  It is distinguished by two rows of hooks on the clubs at the end of the long capture tentacles. Sadly the clubs at the end of 2 long tentacles were missing.   The other eight tentacles suckers have a lining that is a smooth circle with no "teeth" as are found on the Humboldt Squid.  This species washes ashore only occasionally in Puget Sound.  Very little is know of its life history.
Check out this link for more information:

Clubhook Squid

Clubhook Squid

Clubhook Squid

Tentacle at top is Club tentacle missing the club end

Clubhook Squid

Suckers on non-club tentacle

Beak - removed from mouth
Clubhook Squid hooks on club tentacle ( Dr. William Hanshumaker)

Sucker from non-club tentacle with smooth circular ring -no teeth
A more intact Clubhook Squid ( Dr. William Hanshumaker)

Sunday, June 8, 2014


Puget Sound is seeing an annual population explosion of Jellyfish in June.  This is not abnormal.
Jellyfish for the most part have a life cycle that includes a sedentary stage followed by asexual reproduction where the medusa (the jellyfish everyone sees) bud off from the sedentary form...
this usually takes place in the Spring when there is plenty of food in the water column for the newly formed medusa.   The medusa stage reproduces sexually with eggs and sperm which meet in the water column and form the next stage which will settle to the bottom and develop into the sedentary stage and then it starts all over again next Spring.  The medusa stage usually lives only the one season.
Presently people are reporting lots of jellyfish in the water around Duwamish Head in Puget Sound.
While there are lots of species in the plankton now, most are quite small and not easily seen.
There are two species quite common now that are easily observable...The large Fried-egg Jellyfish and the smaller Water Jellyfish.  The Water Jellyfish (Aequorea spp.) is much more common and its easy to count dozens from one viewpoint on a dock.  The much larger Fried-egg Jellyfish (Phacellophora camtschatica) feeds on other jellyfish and the Water Jellyfish is a favorite prey item.

Fried-egg Jellyfish
Water Jellyfish