Tag Archives: fish

Terrific tides, a cruel crustacean and a smooth operator

Scout holds one of the many fried-egg jellies (Phacellophora camtschatica), large and small, that we found beached or at the water's edge. Photo: Jeff Adams
A girl scout holds one of the many fried-egg jellies (Phacellophora camtschatica), large and small, that we found beached or at the water’s edge. These don’t have a significant sting. However, the similarly sized, brick red lion’s mane jelly packs a nettle-like sting. Photo: Jeff Adams

Terrific Tides

The daytime minus tides that began on Thursday are the last of the lowest for 2013, so this week’s a great time to get out and explore. All tides below are for Seattle and can vary depending on where you go in the Salish Sea.

  • Saturday 7/20: -2.3@9:25am
  • Sunday 7/21: -2.9@10:15am
  • Monday 7/22: -3.1@11:03am
  • Tuesday 7/23: -2.8@11:50am
  • Wednesday 7/24: -2.1@12:37pm
  • Thursday 7/25: -1.1@1:23pm

The Kitsap Beach Naturalists will be sharing cool finds at Scenic Beach State Park Saturday (8:30-10:30), Fay Bainbridge Park Sunday (9-11), and at both Kitsap Memorial State Park and Lions Park (Lebo Blvd. in Bremerton) Monday (11-1).

I had the pleasure to end the work week by teaming up with the great Harbor WildWatch staff and volunteers to share sea life wonders with about 100 girl scouts, team leaders and some family members at Manchester State Park. We had a lot of lovely finds and a couple that really piqued my interest…

Shiner surfperch parasitized by a blood sucking copepod (Haemobaphes diceraus). Photo: Jeff Adams
Shiner perch parasitized by a blood sucking copepod (Haemobaphes diceraus). Photo: Jeff Adams

A cruel crustacean

Reactions to a dead shiner perch (Cymatogaster aggregata) were varied, particularly as we showed off the  evidence of parasites that may have hastened the perch’s demise. Turns out the poor fish’s body was home to a small coven of vampires!

Out from under each gill cover poked what looked like a pair of small Slinkys. A colleague who trained as a fish pathologist, informed us that the coils were the gonads of a parasitic female copepod called Haemobaphes diceraus.

Copepods are crustaceans, better known as abundant members of the microscopic animal plankton. Of course, in certain circles, their fame derives from Plankton, the tiny, one-eyed nemesis from SpongeBob SquarePants. Plankton was a reasonable depiction of typical copepods, which have teardrop bodies with a single eye and long antennae. Their parasitic cousins, however, wind up looking more like a bit of offal from the cleaning of the last catch.

Close up of the egg sacks from Haemobaphes diceraus. Photo: Jeff Adams
Close up of the pair of coiled egg sacks from the parasitic isopod, Haemobaphes diceraus. Photo: Jeff Adams

Haemobaphes diceraus has a long trunk that extends through the gill arch and directly into heart, where… it siphons off blood. It’s super cool creepiness even garnered the honor of Parasite of the Day in 2010.

Research from Nanaimo, British Columbia in the early 2000’s found that about 10% of shiner perch unwillingly hosted their personal blood sucker. Interestingly 97.9% of the infested fish they studied had only a single copepod inhabiting them. Our sad specimen sported two. Bummer.

Smooth operator

Beauty and grace combine on a bed of slime. Imagine shaping yourself to the ground as you move through your daily life. While halfway up the stairs, I’d be thinking “Oh yeah, I’m pretty cool.” (Then again, I’d be choking on dust and dog fur.) Alas we remain upright and rigid, but we can still enjoy watching a flatworm live the glide life.

Giant flatworm (Kaburakia excelsa) with it's spotted brown top side and branched digestive sacks on the bottom. Photo: Jeff Adams
Photo: Jeff Adams

While collecting for the touch tanks, Harbor WildWatch staff  found a beautiful giant flatworm (Kaburakia excelsa). Their typical home is under rocks, though you may find them on floats and docks and among masses of mussels. Since they can read 4″ long, these are the giants of the flatworm world and a bit tougher than their smaller cousins.

You can see the highly branched digestive sac in the picture of it’s underside. Though branched, the sack is made up of dead ends. After using an eversible throat to capturing an unfortunate victim, partially digested food is moved into the digestive sac. Since there’s no point B for the indigestible bits to leave the sac, poo must go out where the food came in. Yum.

Wandering the beach is an iconic part of the Salish Sea summer. Summer’s going fast, so explore a beach this week. Go slow. Be observant. There’s always some new bit of wonder tucked on a rock… or sticking grotesquely out of the side of a dead fish’s head!

Jeff Adams is a Washington Sea Grant Marine Water Quality Specialist, affiliated with the University of Washington’s College of the Environment, and based in Bremerton. You can follow his Sea Life blog, SalishSeaLife tweets, FaceBook and video posts, send email to jaws@uw.edu or call at 360-337-4619.

Thingy Thursday: Genesis and the Lancet

Inspired by “Amusing Monday” on Christopher Dunagan’s Watching Our Water Ways blog, I’m officially launching “Thingy Thursday”!

Once in a while, folks send pictures or questions about aquatic life to me or to groups I’m affiliated with. Some are relatively straightforward. Some seem alien. Others confound the experts.

I’ll start with those that have come across my desk and add a few mysteries I’ve personally encountered. I really hope, readers will start sending questions and images (jaws@uw.edu) to help Thingy Thursday grow from a tiny larva to a full blown sea monster! … A bit overblown there,… but if you do happen to find a sea monster, please grab your camera.

Longnose lancetfish (Alepisaurus ferox). Photo by: Kim Esterberg

One of my favorites washed up on Bainbridge Island’s shoreline in October 2008. The pictures wound up on my desk, so I forwarded it to folks in the know. Several identified it as the longnose or long snouted lancetfish (Alepisaurus ferox). This is more of a reminder than an original story since it was blogged about at the time: Watching Our Water Ways: Another Strange Creature shows up in Puget Sound. Still I’ll add a couple extra elements.

What you can’t see in these pictures are the huge fangs (a pair on top and 2 pairs on the bottom) and the large, sail-like fin this deep sea predator sports. (Click here for good pictures of those features from a specimen in California).

Longnose lancetfish closeup of head. Photo by: Kim Esterberg

The musculature of these fish is described as “watery”, suggesting they ambush prey instead of actively chasing it down. They’re known to eat fish (including their own species), squid, crustaceans, and salps (free-floating sea squirts, highly evolved invertebrates). I wonder what the watery muscles mean for the fight they put up at the end of a fishing line? Very few people would know.

Another specimen washed up on Vancouver Island in April 2008. The article reported three other beached lancetfish sightings in the Northwest that month, as well as a barracuda and six-gill shark on Vancouver Island. The Bainbridge fish was found 3 months later.

More on lancet fish at… Wikipedia and FishBase

The oceans are full of amazing creatures, and once in a while they appear on that thin boundary between our world and theirs – the beach. I’ll offer up beach walk to the first person to find a giant or humbolt squid on a Salish Sea beach, and either send pictures or pull out the beak for me. You’re more likely to find them on the outer coast, but strange things show up in our inland waters from time to time.

Feel free to send along anything exciting or unusual. Here’s to life’s mysteries! JEff

Jeff Adams is a Washington Sea Grant Marine Water Quality Specialist, affiliated with the University of Washington’s College of the Environment, and based in Bremerton. You can follow his Sea-life blog, email to jaws@uw.edu or call at 360-337-4619.