Category Archives: Spineless (marine)

This blog is a Kitsap Sun reader blog. The Kitsap Sun neither edits nor previews reader blog posts. Their content is the sole creation and responsibility of the readers who produce them. Reader bloggers are asked to adhere to our reader blog agreement. If you have a concern or would like to start a reader blog of your own, please contact

Terrific tides and Bremerton’s Lions Park

Thanks to some of the summer’s lowest tides, there’s great fun on the beaches this week. I’ll put a few events below. If you know of others, please add them as comments. I also wanted to recommend one of my favorite local beaches.

Beach goers exploring Lion's Park's broad gravel beach at low tide. Photo: Jeff Adams

The fast currents that rush through Bremerton’s Port Washington Narrows (the shallow, narrow waterway that connects Dyes Inlet to Sinclair Inlet) create excellent habitat for diverse sea life. Lion’s Park (sometimes called Lebo Field or Lebo Recreation Area) is on the north side of the Narrows and just northwest of downtown Bremerton.

I’m sure I’ll come back to this park in later blogs, but it will be particularly good viewing the next couple days while the tides are around -3.0 and the edge of the kelp bed is exposed. The City of Bremerton has also done some amazing reworking of the park to improve shoreline habitat and reduce stormwater pollution. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Tides this week…

  • 6/14 Tues; -2.9 @ 10:30am (better hurry!)
  • 6/15 Wed; -3.1 @ 11:10
  • 6/16 Thurs; -3.0 @ Noon
  • 6/17 Fri; -2.6 ~12:40pm
  • 6/18 Fri; – 1.9 ~1:15
  • 6/19 Sun; -0.9 ~2:00
Peg Tillery, WSU Kitsap Extension Beach Watcher Coordinator sporting the Kitsap Beach Naturalist hat and the logo's inspiration (purple star Pisaster ochraceus). Lion's Park, Bremerton. Photo: Jeff Adams

Beach walks and such…

Kitsap Beach Naturalists
– will join Stillwaters Environmental Center at Kingston Marina and on the beach north of the Kingston Ferry Terminal, June 18, 12:30-2:30pm (Stillwaters will be there starting at 9:am)
– Fay Bainbridge Park, Bainbridge Island, WA, June 18, Noon-2:30pm
– Scenic Beach State Park, Seabeck, WA, June18, 1:00-3:00pm

Harbor WildWatch and Shellfish Partners
– Purdy Sand Spit on the shore of Henderson Bay off of Hwy 302 in Purdy, WA, June 18, Noon-4:00pm

South Sound Beach Naturalists
– Priest Point Park, June 18, 12:30pm – 3:30pm. and at
– Burfoot and Tolmie State Parks, June 19, 1:30pm – 4:30pm

Seattle Aquarium Beach Naturalists are on a variety of east Sound Beaches
– Richmond Beach, Carkeek Park, Golden Gardens, South Alki, Lincoln Park, Seahurst and Des Moines Beach Park, June 14, 10-1; June 15, 10-2; June 16, 10-2; June 17, 10:30-2; June 18, 11:30-3; June 19, 12:30-3:30

Hope you get to enjoy some time on the shoreline! 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, SalishSeaLife tweets and videos, email to or call at 360-337-4619.

Habitat specificity… or… home, home on the whale

I’ve really been enjoying a blog by Jackie Hildering, “The Marine Detective” from Port McNeill, BC. In her most recent post to, she share a story of a relationships between species that literally build upon each other.

In Humpback Whale Gooseneck Barnacles?! She shares the wonder of diversity and discovery that never ceases to surprise. In her research on humpback whales she and her colleagues noticed a species specific whale barnacle on a particular humpback. As time went on, the barnacle changed like a gnarly wart growing hair. Finally, they got a close look at the “hair” to find it was a barnacle specific barnacle – the humpback whale barnacle barnacle. Share the marine detective’s wonder and enjoy her amazing photos.

Humpback whale in Colvos Passage near the Southworth ferry. Jeff Adams

Humpback whales sometimes find their way into Salish Sea waters (as you may note in my Loch Ness blurr style humpback pic). So bring the binoculars next time you hear of one (join the Orca Network list for near daily whale sightings info). Wonder not only at the magnificence of the whale, but see if you can spot a humpback whale barnacle, or even a barnacle with a medusa doo. Cheers! 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, SalishSeaLife tweets and videos, email to or call at 360-337-4619.

Last chance for a close shave

Happy razor clammers! Kim Pham

The last opportunity of the season to collect our outer coast’s famous razor clams (Siliqua patula – Latin for Pod open since it looks like a newly germinated seed pod) is today (5/18) through Sunday (5/22). The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has a whole series of pages devoted to razor clams, including how to dig them and their relationship with domoic acid, a toxin that causes amnesic shellfish poisoning and is produced by the group of diatoms called Pseudo-nitzschia. So far, the razor clam beaches have the Department of Health OK for harvesting razors this week.

If you’re looking for a spur-of-the-moment staycation you might give this some thought. Our Salish Sea clams generally stay in one place while you rake/dig them near the surface or chase their neck down deep. Razor clams take a different approach on their beaches of deep sand. They have a specialized foot that can rapidly extend, long and pointed, straight down into the sand. Once extended, the end of the foot expands to act as an anchor. Muscles then contract and pull the entire clam deeper into the sand. You shovel, they plunge, you shovel, they plunge… the chase is on!

Jackknife clam from Foulweather Bluff preserve. Jeff Adams

You might imagine, such an approach wouldn’t work well in many Salish Sea beaches because of the mix of sand gravel and cobble that are often dominant. Hence, we fjord-folk have to travel to the open coast and bravely face the Pacific expanse to forage for these delicacies.

On the other hand, we do have a very similar-looking species, called the jackknife clam or blunt razor clam (Solen sicarius, meaning something like Pipe dagger-man, ouch!). Its shiny, oblong, beige to brown shell is similar to the razor clam, but certainly unique among Salish Sea clams. The shell of a jackknife, however, is relatively narrow and more squared off on the ends. Also, the hinge, where the two shells connect, is at one end of the shell instead of near the middle. That’s pretty unusual to see among our clams.

Partially buried jackknife clam shell, from Foulweather Bluff preserve. Jeff Adams

The jackknife clam is not often seen alive since it prefers sand and mud from the very lowest tides down to about 180′. Jackknife clams (up to 5″ long) also dig a more permanent burrow than a razor clam, whose burrow fills and empties of sand more regularly. The jackknife burrow may be 15″ deep or more and can be relatively smooth lined, particularly in substrate that’s more of a hard mud. The clam can zip quickly to the bottom when threatened. It can then dig deeper if necessary… but it’s no longer so zippy.

Summer clamming is a great time with nutritious benefits. Just keep your eyes on your regulations and limits, refill your holes and don’t forget to check the Department of Health’s marine biotoxin pages and alerts. If you head out to the Coast this week/weekend… enjoy, feel great about supporting the local economy… and may your skills be sharper than a razor. 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, SalishSeaLife tweets and videos, email to or call at 360-337-4619.

Terrific Tides and Historical Harper

Harper fishing pier on the right and ferry "dolphin" on the left. The dolphin was removed in 2009 shortly after this picture was taken. Jeff Adams

Along with the amazing sea life you might encounter around the Kitsap Peninsula, the Salish Sea and beyond, I also want to periodically highlight some beaches that host our saltwater bounty.

The area of South Kitsap from the Harper pier, south into a pocket estuary is a great place to watch birds, dive, reflect on history and our shoreline fingerprint, launch a boat, and explore the beach. The area uncovered by a low tide is a real hodgepodge of public and private ownership, but the boat launch and fishing pier are readily identifiable public access points.

Harper has a history well worth noting. The fishing pier stands were the ferry system linked Kitsap to Vashon and West Seattle until the early 1960’s. Until their 2009 removal, a remnant of the ferry dock (a cluster of deteriorating creosote pilings called a dolphin) could be seen at the end of the pier.

The Harper pier is frequented by divers and anglers alike. For divers, there are even a couple wrecked boats to explore beyond the pier. The sport plumose anemones, kelp crabs, barnacles and other piling fare to enjoy. Divers also find abundant lures, lines, bottles and mobile phones lost by the piers other regular users. It’s also a great place to see birds and get a great view of the Central Puget Sound.

A pile of brick from one of the Harper Clay Products brick dump areas. Jeff Adams

A fascinating history lies on the beach near the boat launch, and just under the surface. The Harper Clay Products Company started making bricks from nearby clay in the late 1800’s (click here for some great old photos and maps). The good bricks can still be seen in Pioneer Square buildings in Seattle and in the Governor’s Mansion in Olympia. The discarded bricks, however, are abundant near the boat launch as one of the “brick dump” areas used by the factory. The bricks wind up supporting barnacles, rockweed and some other animals that live on hard surfaces, though in the areas where they’re piled deeply, they don’t do any favors for the mudflat organisms that would have been there in their absence.

A rich pocket estuary and salt marsh lies to the south of the boat launch and road. The culvert that feeds this area is the subject of restoration interest, with the intent of broadening the salt marsh habitat to its historic extent.

As for this week’s great low tides…
Our first -3 tides of the season are today and tomorrow. Excellent mid-day minus tides continue through Sunday. As a bonus, it looks like we’re even in for a few sunny days.

A layer of discarded Harper bricks can be seen on the eroded edge of the boat launch. Picklweed and grass now grow on top. Jeff Adams

5/17, -3.0 at 11:30am, Tuesday (better hurry:)
5/18, -3.2 at 12:10pm, Wednesday
5/19, -2.9 at 1:00pm, Thursday
5/20, -2.3 @ 1:40pm, Friday
5/21, -1.3 @ 2:30pm, Saturday
5/22, -0.2 @ 3:15pm, Sunday

Head out to Harper or your favorite walking, birding, shellfishing, trash cleaning, beachcombing, all around breathtaking beach to enjoy the low tides and maybe a bit of sunny and sixty for a change. Time to trade knee boots for sandals? Cheers! 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, SalishSeaLife tweets and videos, email to or call at 360-337-4619.

Thingy Thursday: Suitable for a plate but has no place in the Salish Sea

Thanks to Jim Aho of Illahee for sharing a report of an Atlantic or Maine lobster caught from the community dock. It’s third hand information, but wouldn’t be the first time an Atlantic lobster has been found in the Puget Sound – 1999, 2008. The 2008 discovery lead to some interesting exchanges between divers who liked the idea of seeing something unusual on their dives, and those who understood the risk non-native species pose.

People with good intentions buy and release lobsters. Someone even wrote about their dilemma to buy and release lobsters and in the end how they did the right thing. But the fact that someone is putting that much thought into it means that it’s on the minds of many. The presence of lobsters in the our marine waters clearly shows that some follow through with their thoughts. Maybe well intentioned, but a horribly dangerous habit to get into.

Releasing one may help that individual live a little longer, but just one can cause direct harm by eating and out-competing our native species (they’re opportunists eating fish, crabs, clams, mussels, sea urchins…) and can have even greater impact by spreading disease. I don’t know if conditions are suitable here for lobsters to successfully reproduce, but it’s just not worth the risk.

Should you ever find an Atlantic/Maine lobster, please snap a photo and send a message with location and date to me ( and/or to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Aquatic Nuisance Species Coordinator, or call 877-9-INFEST. We may just continue to catch these odd individuals here and there, but should we start to see reports clustered in an area, this may be a species we would have a chance to eradicate. Thanks for keeping your eyes peeled and reporting the unusual! 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 or call at 360-337-4619.

Just outside the beam

The ochre star (Pisaster ochraceus) is sometimes called the purple sea star and is probably what comes to mind for most of us in the Puget Sound when we hear "starfish". Photo: Jeff Adams

A couple weeks in but happy new year! Every year, I enjoy new shoreline experiences and marvel at all there is to know and all that is unknown. 2010’s treasures were a couple octopus. I wonder what this year will bring?

I wanted to write a short note to  draw your attention to a pair of upcoming (this Saturday!) beach walks and share a couple images from January beach walks past.

Please join the Kitsap Beach Naturalists at one of two locations Saturday (January 15) evening from 7:30-8:30pm (click here for flier). Dress appropriately and bring some form of portable light.

Bainbridge Island, ferry dock – meet @ BI Senior Community Center on Brien Drive

Bremerton, Evergreen Park – meet at the park boat ramp

Our final winter beach walk for the season will be February 15, 7:30-8:30pm at the Manchester boat launch. We’ll meet at the library and head down to the beach from there.

Sunflower star (Pycnopodia helianthoides) cruising the beach on water powered tube feet. Photo: Jeff Adams

I always rave about how fun and fascinating these events are. Winter minus tides are pretty smooth sailing for intertidal organisms – no sun, no heat, no light (for predators), little activity on the water and beach. With waves and cold as their biggest concerns, they’re generally just care free chilling until the tide returns.

For the next week, we’ll have good low tides between 6:pm and midnight (the low gets progressively later each night) so take an evening stroll on the beach whenever you get the chance. Don’t forget to go slow, look around and enjoy the nightlife. You never know what lies just outside your beam.

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 or call at 360-337-4619.


Squid at the surface of Bremerton Marina. Photo: Jeff Adams

The Port Orchard to Bremerton foot ferry is a great way to avoid driving or biking around Sinclair Inlet when you just want to get to downtown Bremerton from south Kitsap. As a bonus, you get a few moments on each side for sea creature viewing. You’re almost guaranteed to see plumose anemones, giant pink stars, mussels and barnacles on pilings and floating structures. You’re likely to see a kelp crab and a seaweed or two.

On one occasion, I thought I was watching a sick/disoriented smelt or herring in its death throws. That turned out to be a half truth. It was actually a squid working on a recent catch. It’s unusual to see them at the surface in the daylight.

To ring in October, I peered over the ferry pier on the Bremerton side to see my first big marine jelly smack! As I watched, the flood tide propelled hundreds of moon jellies over, under and around the man-made structures of the Bremerton ferry docks and marina.

Kris Brander saw this fabulous smack of moon jellies (Aurelia aurita) boatside at the Brownsville marina on August 11, 2010. Photo by: Kris Bradner

The animals are beautiful. They are nearly clear except for the four leaf clover shaped reproductive organs at their center. The characteristic jellyfish pulse is also gracefully mesmerizing.

An observant and curious boater took a great picture of a dense smack of moon jellies at the Brownsville marina on August 11th of this year. The image worked its way around UW Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences department, and received several responses. One referred to the recent (July, 2010) conference… Third International Jellyfish Blooms Symposium.

Our region’s own Jenny Purcell of Western Washington University organized the first session listed on the conference page and provided a session summary that really hits on the complexities of jelly blooms.

Globally, blooms impact economies and the environments that support them. Lots of factors can go into creating blooms, including climate change, altered salinity and excess nutrients/food. Murkier water and low oxygen can also favor jellies over their fish competitors. Even manmade structures in the water can create extra habitat for to support the jellyfish life cycle. Fishing can also remove some of their predators and competitors.

The life cycle of a jelly is a strange (though not uncommon) combination of sexual and asexual reproduction and of planktonic (floating in the water) and benthic (attached to a surface in the water) forms. The jellies we see floating around are the adult male or female medusa. The boys put their sperm into the water (like many marine critters). The girls use the sperm to fertilize eggs that they brood until the larvae are released into the water. The larvae soon find a shaded place (that’s why man-made structures come in handy) to settle and grow into a polyp – like a tiny anemone. That polyp divides into a budding colony and each bud breaks off to grow into a new medusa. You might check out the Jelly Zone for more about jellies.

Part of a smack of lion's mane jellies (Cyanea capillata - red means don't touch!). There were about 20 lion's manes on the beach at Friday Harbor on September 24th, 2010 with more washing in. Photo: Jeff Adams

But why is an aggregation of jellyfish called a “smack”. I don’t know, any ideas? Sarah Asper-Smith of Alaska found odd group names so intriguing that she illustrated an ABC book with unusual names for each letter called Smack of Jellyfish. It comes out in November. Good stuff.

With my wife and oldest son’s help, we came up with a few aggregation names we feel should catch on…

bull kelp bed –> a flogging
sand dollar bed –> a treasure
urchin bed –> a thorn
crab aggregation –> a drool
dogwinkle snail gathering –> a pound

Is anyone with me? Please comment with your own inspired new name for an aggregation of something. Have a jolly jelly day! 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 or call at 360-337-4619.

Great weather, great low tides and great events!

Foulweather Bluff Preserve looking north across expansive eelgrass beds. Photo: Jeff Adams

The new moon in June is upon us. Accompanying it are likely the lowest daytime tides of the year. Better yet, the forecast suggests we’re in the 70’s and sunny to partly sunny this weekend. What a great time to get out to the beaches!

Some planned events for Saturday (June 12th) are included below, but you can also plan your own adventure. It varies by your location, but the approximate tides and times are…

Kitsap Beach Naturalist volunteer Stephanie Lewis-Sandy (in the hat) approaches a child to explore her beach find. Photo: Jeff Adams

Friday, -2.3 @ 10:50AM
Saturday, -2.9 @ 11:30AM
Sunday, -3.2 @ 12:15PM
Monday, -3.1 @ 1:00PM
Tuesday, -2.5 @ 1:45PM

When the tide is this low on summer days, the plants and animals are stressed by the sun, wind, and heat, so please remember to tread lightly. Watch your feet and walk instead of running, wet your fingers before touching plants and animals, don’t turn over any rocks bigger than your head, and walk around the edges of the eelgrass or kelp beds. If you’re digging clams, don’t forget to fill your holes back in (don’t want to smother the next crop!).

A a really low tide, large geoduck siphons extend well above the sandy beach surface of the Foulweather Bluff Preserve. Photo: Jeff Adams

This Saturday (June 12th) you might want to join one of the following events…

–  From 10am-1pm, join me and the Kitsap Beach Naturalist volunteers as we enjoy and explore the Foulweather Bluff Nature Preserve (Hansville).

Beach Walk and shellfish harvest/cooking demonstrations at Twanoh State Park (Union) – led by the Puget Sound Mycological Society.

Water celebration (9am-2pm) and low-tide beach walk (late morning) at the Kingston Farmers Market – coordinated by the Stillwaters Environmental Education Center (scroll half way down the page).

A bit of gentle excavation of a cracked and raised area on the beach often revels large moon snails burrowed safely under the surface. Photo: Jeff Adams

Enjoy the beaches and feel free to send me notes, questions or images of what you experience this weekend. Cheers! JEff

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

Diggin’ Ducks on the Prairie

Thanks in large part to this blog and to professional connections in the Sea Grant network, I had the amazing privilege of being a guest naturalist the April 3rd performance of the the nationally syndicated radio show A Prairie Home Companion. The show was broadcast live from the Paramount Theater in Seattle on April 3rd. I was referred as a potential guest for the show on Wednesday March 31, had a conversation with Garrison Keillor (host of Prairie Home Companion) on April Fools Day (the voice make and date prompted a double take) and on Saturday enjoyed a casual conversation about marine life in front of 4000 people and 4,000,000 listeners.

Jeff Adams and Geoduck with Nell Robinson of the Henriettas (second from left) and the Royal Academy of Radio Actors (others left to right) Sue Scott, Fred Newman and Tim Russell. Photo: A kind person holding Jeff's camera

You can listen to the show (I was in the third segment 01:21:37 into the show), and see a picture of Garrison Keillor, Geoduck and me.

It was a fabulous feeling and an honor. I have to admit though… I couldn’t help but be a bit nervous. In the past, my musical alter-ego has been on stages big and small, singing everything from country to opera. This was different. I was going to be talking about something I loved, both personally and professionally, with a master of wit and improvisation… with no real preparation. Eek!

However, after watching everyone else in the show, my nerves eased and it felt natural once the time came to step up to the mic. Oddly enough, the curtain call felt even more comfortable, when I could join in a chorus of Johnny Cash’s I Still Miss Someone.

One-year-old Cisco Adams-Tres with common reaction to a geoduck. Photo: Jeff Adams

Orcas, octopuses and geoducks were the sea life we spoke most about on the show. Since a geoduck (Panopea generosa) was my companion on the show, I’ll give them a bit of attention here.

You can’t help but be immediately struck by the obscene enormity of its neck and its resemblance to something you might see in the pasture. Yet, there’s so much more to this Salish Sea icon.

This clam’s name originated from the Nisqually tribe in South Puget Sound as “gweduc”, meaning “dig deep”. As Europeans transcribed the name, they manged to go from gweduc to gooeyduck or goeduck to geoduck. Gee-o-duck? No matter how it’s written, Salish Sea residents still call them by their proper name, while those outside our region tend to be confounded by the matter.

The geoduck can be found from Kodiak, Alaska to Newport Bay, California, but it’s probably best known from the Salish Sea.  The geoduck wins the title of “world’s largest burrowing clam”, averaging over 2 pounds but sometimes weighing 10 pounds or more with necks over a yard in length. They are also among the oldest animals in the world, living in excess of 140 years

Geoduck siphon show. Fairly easily identified by the smooth, cream colored appearance of the openings. Photo: Jeff Adams

A geoduck’s long neck actually consists of two hose-like siphons. The incurrent siphon brings plankton and detritus rich water to the body, 3 or 4 feet down into the muck. The water passes across the gills which extract oxygen but also use mucus to glean food from the water before it makes the long journey through the excurrent siphon, back up out of the sediments.

Of course, you’d never know any of this from what you see on the beach. Only the tip of their siphons extends above the seafloor, though it may be several inches of the tip.

Digging a duck is a challenge since they’re so deep and so low in the intertidal. You have to race against the tide to dig deep before the tide overtakes your hole.

Geoduck siphon "show". The neck may sometimes be sticking several inches to a foot out of the sand at low tide. Photo: Jeff Adams

If you do manage to get one (from the beach or the market), you’re in for a treat. There’s a lot of meat to a geoduck, and amazingly enough, the meat is quite sweet. Tenderize it a bit, slice it up, role it and flour and toss it in a frying pan. Mmmmm. You can find several recipes and a everything else you could want to know about geoducks in Field Guide to the Geoduck by David Gordon, who is now Washington Sea Grant’s science writer.

You may also enjoy the lyrics and sheet music of Dig a Duck a Day. More recently, a Canadian band called the Bottomfeeders and a Seattle area Band called the Whateverly Brothers both have great geoduck songs. You can here the Bottomfeeders and Dig a Duck a Day on the fabulous duckumentary 3 Feet Under: Digging Deep for the Geoduck (trailer). So much great stuff about geoducks! Enjoy and may the force be with you if you hope to dig a duck a day. JEff

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

Would you like frosting with your slug?

Banana slug (Ariolimax sp.). Photo: Jeff Adams

Slug is a term used for shell-less gastropods (stomach foots). The sea slugs are remarkably diverse, ornate and favorites of beach combers and divers. Then there’s the oft maligned land slugs… I pulled a board off the ground this weekend as saw a dozen small slugs, probably of two difference species, both introduced and all probably waiting to mow down whatever I might plant in the garden. But then I found a banana slug nearby. Who could malign a banana slug? Naturally, I had to show my kids. It sat in my hand for a moment before one optical tentacle slowly peaked out, then another, then its sensory tentacles… Left a heck of a slimy, sticky mess on my hand. Cool banana slugs reminds me of a recent story that involved two sea-through land slugs, an engaged citizen and a University of Washington scientist. It’s an absolute treat to scientists when interesting creatures or images are brought to our attention. Please share your observations. I’d love to include some in this blog.

Frosted nudibranch (Dirona albolineata). Photo: Jeff Adams

Oh right, aquatic things… The other reason I had slugs on the brain is that we encountered two lovely creatures during a recent beach walk. One was the sea lemon (Anisodoris nobilis), a fruity-smelling sponge eater. The other and most striking was the frosted nudibranch (Dirona albolineata). It’s also called the white-lined Dirona (albo-lineata = white-lined). The white edges of its cerata (the frilly things on its body) are distinctive, while the body can be white to light orange or purple.

The frosted nudibranch is a predator, crunching away on bryozoans and even small snails. It doesn’t eat anemones like some of its similarly frilly aeolid cousins and thus doesn’t incorporate the anemone’s stinging cells into its cerata. However, when threatened by a predator, it will readily shed its cerata and makes a run for safety.

Serendipitously, this weekend my wife found a photo in a gallery with a frosted nudibranch front and center and a stunning opalescent nudibranch (Hermissenda crassicornis) in the background. The label on the photograph said “Lion’s mane”, while the label for the lion’s mane jelly (three photos down) said “Redondo nudibranchs”. We quietly switched the labels. The opalescent is an aeolid with stinging cells in its cerata and is known to be voracious and cannibalistic. Maybe the photo’s title should be changed to “Killer in the shadows” or something similarly dramatic.

My love of slugs extends back to before I ever saw the ocean. A favorite story of my parents – boy follows slime trails, boy brings home 3 slugs, slugs escape jar, father enjoys slime exfoliant between toes… Enjoy following your own slime trails! JEff

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