Out of the Blue

Ochre_seastars_Duxbury

A group of students from The Branson School have been monitoring key invertebrates and species of algae at Duxbury Reef in Bolinas, California for roughly 10 years. This January, we found some unexpected things. We saw an octopus, a rare sighting!

The octopus in question was an East Pacific Red Octopus, or Octopus rubescens. Like many octopuses, the Red Octopus has an amazing ability to camouflage, and is able to alter both the color and texture of its skin. We were able to experience its incredible camouflage ability first hand; the octopus first mimicked coralline algae, turning itself a reddish pink, and adopted a bumpy texture, executing a near-flawless impression of the algae. Later, after moving from the side of the pool to the floor, it turned a dark brown, in order to match the rocky substrate at the bottom of the pool.

Another interesting thing about the monitoring was the fact that no one in our group saw a single sea star. Sea stars are a common staple of intertidal life at Duxbury, so this blatant lack of sea stars was not only unusual, but also very concerning.

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Hey Folks! What’s Up With the Sand Crabs?

Have you ever seen a sand crab at the beach? If not, imagine little creatures with grey shells that wiggle backwards and live underneath the sand. You may ask yourself, why should we care about some tiny sand crabs?  Well the answer is simple, they are actually very important to a beach’s ecosystem, as they are the basis of the food web. By monitoring sand crabs, we can indicate the health of the entire beach.

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Feeling Crabby?

The question that we looked at was if the size of males, females, and females with eggs in a sand crab population on Ocean Beach change over a ten year period. Well, based off of recent monitoring at Ocean Beach on September 2013 in comparison to research at Ocean Beach on September 2003, size of males, females, and females with eggs in a sand crab population on Ocean Beach does change over a ten year period.
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