If you live near the coast of any ocean, you probably know that tide pooling is great fun. Whats even more fun, is waiting until there is a very low tide, and then going to your local marine protected area or marine reserve and seeing what gets exposed. A few weeks ago my family went out to Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in Moss Beach CA during a very low minus tide. We spent the better part of an two hours looking at various sea stars, nudibranchs, urchins, anemones and other assorted critters. However, at least for me, the best encounter occurred just as we were about to leave as the tide was coming back up and the sun was setting – we saw a group of people pointing and standing back from a tide pool. As we moved closer we started to hear mutterings of ‘I think its a squid’, so we moved just a little faster, because dang, an exposed squid, who wouldn’t want to see that (especially if you are me or my 6 year old daughter). Turned out it was a ‘Red’ Octopus, Octopus rubescens. O. rubescens, most easily ID’d by the two white spots below its eyes and above its first pair of arms, is a cool little octo that that lays eggs and is born in the intertidal area, but moves out to deeper water to live most of its life. One of the coolest tidbits about these cephs is that, at least as younglings, they school. Another important tidbit is that they have a wicked bite that seems to fester for a while, so if you see one, don’t pick it up. The most interesting part of the encounter was watching the little octo lift its body up off the rocks to ‘walk’ instead of just crawling about.
So, while reefs in a box are great, its super fun to get outside and see what’s crawling around in the sun.