Finally, a critter with a purse…

Yes, you read the subtitle correctly. A purse. A pocket. A bursicle.

The common Black Turban Snail is an interesting little critter with an interesting organ in its pocket.

Black Turban Snails, photo by Steve Lonhart, NOAA MBNMS (Royalty free from SIMoN Sanctuary data base library)

Where Found

They are one of the most abundant snail species along the Pacific Coast and inhabit most of the North American Pacific Coast from Canada to Baja California, Mexico.  

This rocky shore snail is commonly found between high and low tides in protected areas near boulders, tide pools, and close to shore.

Identifying

The snail is pretty easy to identify, and so is the age of the snail. Juvenile snails live in more shallow water compared to adults. As the snail ages, it also migrates to higher waters. A fully grown Black Turban shell may be just over an inch long (30 mm) and 30-years-old.

The name sake for the snail is not the shell but the head and foot which are also black. The shell is smooth, whorled and pyramidal shaped.

Predators

The Black turban snail has many predators including humans, crabs, stars, otters, birds, other snails, and more.

There is evidence that some humans also harvested the snail as part of their diet about 12,000 years ago. If the snail were the only food consumed, the average human would need to eat around 400 of them each day to survive. When they are easy to harvest, this is possible and the snail continues to be collected today.

But wait, what is IN that shell?

Don’t be too surprised to find something other than a snail living inside the Black Turban shell. Hermit crabs will frequently adopt empty Black turban snail shells as their new home.

Photo of Hermit crab living in a Black Turban shell by Steve Lonhart NOAA MBNMS (Royalty free from SIMoN Sanctuary data base library)

The black distinctively smooth shell helps protect the snail. The Black Turban can withdraw its entire body into it for protection.

Shark-like Teeth

Black Turbans shred alga using a rasp-like (like a file) structure full of teeth. These teeth are constantly breaking and wearing. Thus, replacement teeth are produced continually, much like a shark must do.  

What’s ON that shell?

The shell of the Black Turban is covered with red algae. Limpets graze the shell eating the algae. Slipper shells (Crepidula adunca) also live on the Black Turban Snail’s shell. The Slipper shell is a filter feeder and eats phytoplankton, bacteria, and diatoms that are on the shells.

Foods

Tegula funebralis feed on algae such as Macrocystis sp., Nereocystis sp., Gigartina sp., and Mastocarpus sp..

So what’s up with the purse?

Black Turbans have a special organ that they carry in a pouch or purse like structure called more scientifically as a bursicle. This chemoreceptor will sense chemical changes that emanate from predators such as crabs and seastars.

Once detected, the snail can take defensive actions and attempt to escape. However, snails are not known to be speedy. Yes, they may flee, but not quickly.

They may move to higher, potentially safer ground, potentially out of the water, to try and avoid contact. They may also simply float away to esacpe.

And of course, they always take their purse.

REFERENCES:
–Merriam-Webster dictionary, bursicle (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bursicle)
–SIMoN Species database (https://sanctuarysimon.org/dbtools/species-database/id/131/tegula/funebralis/black-turban-snail/ and photos from their gallery)
–iNaturalist, Black tegula (https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/460365-Tegula-funebralis)
–Prezi, Black Turban Snail (https://prezi.com/0ac53jzexytf/black-turban-snail/)
–Biodiversity of the Central Coast (https://www.centralcoastbiodiversity.org/black-turban-snail-bull-tegula-funebralis.html)
–Wikipedia, several (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crepidula_adunca, … Microalgae, and chemoreceptors)

Attack of the Giant Green Anemone!

Anemones living in caves are not as bright green as those living in sunnier areas.

This could be a somewhat believable title for a cheesy horror movie. After all, Giant Green Anemones are carnivorous. Not to worry! The sting is harmless to humans.

These beautiful flower-shaped creatures feed on small fish, newly molted crabs, sea urchins, detached mussels, and bits of marine plants. Some fish have developed protection against the anemone’s sting by covering themselves with mucus.

Little Giants

Even though Giant Green Anemones carry the name ‘Giant’ most only measure between seven and 12-inches.

They live a solitary life, and sometimes congregate in small groups (less than 14). These small groups create what looks to be a beautiful underwater floral arrangement. They will change color depending on the amount of light they receive. Different types of anemones will have other colors.

A Deadly Crown

Giant Green Anemones sport an oval crown of six or more rows of tentacles. These tentacles have stinging cells that help protect the anemone from predators. The tentacles also stun prey and help pull the prey into the anemone’s mouth.

Predators include seastars, snails, sea spiders, and fish. Some predators feed on the tentacles and others feed on the column.

Finding Them

Giant Green Anemones stay in the same location most of their lives. They can slowly walk around and swim to escape predators or when detached. These little giants are found in intertidal zones from Alaska south potentially as far as Panama.

Intertidal zones are areas that are above the water level during low tide. Anemones prefer areas where water is present most of the day such as tidepools and relatively shallow harbors.

Low tide will sometimes expose Anemones clinging to pilings and rocks, or even on the beach. When exposed, the anemone will ‘droop’ or close up into its green and brown stem while waiting for the incoming tide.

The fragile, yet harsh Intertidal zones are a challenging place to live but does provide some predation protection. Water conditions can be challenging. While the tide is regular, the shore may not pool the water. The water may be salty one day and diluted by fresh rain the next, and hard wave action can carry one out to sea. Still, many species, like the Giant Green Anemone, thrive there.

Amazing Factoid: A compound from the Giant Green Anemone is used by the pharmaceutical industry to create a beneficial heart stimulant for humans.

REFERENCES:
–Wikipedia Anthopleura xanthogrammica and Intertidal zones (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthopleura_xanthogrammica)
–About Giant Green Anemone, Monterey Bay Aquarium (https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animals/animals-a-to-z/giant-green-anemone)

Mother and calf surfacing for air. www.unsplash.com

Approximately 18,000 Gray Whales migrate twice each year just off the Oregon coast. Approximately 200 Gray Whales hang out year around near the central coast area. This makes them relatively easy to see.

Gray Whales are the most common of the 10 species of whales, dolphins, and porpoises that reside on the Oregon Coast. The Whale Watch Center in Depoe Bay reports seeing as many as 50 whales per day during December – January and again in the spring.

Where are they going?

The whales migrate south to breeding grounds in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico and north to Alaska shortly thereafter. Gray Whales make the longest annual migration of any mammal on earth of over 12,000 miles round trip.

How to spot a Gray Whale

One might think that spotting something so common and the size of a city bus should be easy. Gray Whales can weigh up to 80,000 pounds and reach 50 feet in length. That doesn’t mean that they are easy to see all of the time. The mottled gray color, along with barnacles and whale lice, can make even the large adults swimming just a few miles from shore a challenge.

The easiest way to find them is to grab binoculars and find a high view point on a calm morning. Look for a bushy puff of white on the water. This spout or blow, which should be visible for about five seconds on a calm day. The blow can rise up to 15-feet and occurs as the whale exhales warm, moist air when surfacing.

Finding spouts

Gray Whales typically blow three to five spouts in a row, about 30 to 50 seconds apart as they swim. You may need to move the lens slightly to account for them swimming. Move left (or south) in the winter, and right (or north) in the spring.

Keep watching and you may see the whale use its tail to dive to the sea bottom for three to six seconds. It will then return to the surface to repeat the spouting breathing rhythm.

What is the whale diving for?

Grays fill their mouths with mud from the sea bottom. The mud is strained through a filter-feeding system, called baleen, on the upper jaw of their mouths. Baleen is keratin which is the same substance as human fingernails and hair.

Water and mud is pushed out through the baleen trapping krill and small fish. Many whales have baleen, but not all use it in the same manner. Grays only use only one side of the baleen which is unique in the whale community.

There are several places to learn more about the Gray Whale. Here are a few ideas:
Visit a Visitors’ Guide to Whale Watching on the Oregon Coast (https://www.coastexplorermagazine.com/display.php?url=a-guide-to-whale-watching-on-the-oregon-coast)
–Visit the Whale Watching Spoken Here program (https://orwhalewatch.org/) that has information on best places to see whales, volunteer training, and more.
–Visit Oregon State Parks, Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay, (https://oregonstateparks.org/index.cfm?do=parkPage.dsp_parkPage&parkId=183 ) which has videos of spouting whales, and more.

REFERENCE:
–Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (https://myodfw.com/wildlife-viewing/species/whales-dolphins-and-porpoises)
–Shoreline Education for Awareness, Inc. Friends of the Southern Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuges (https://sea-edu.org/2019/11/25/whale-migration-is-upon-us/)
–Wikipedia, Baleen (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baleen)