Wednesday, August 31

The tide pool menagerie

It wasn't all large marine creatures while we were at Dahican in Mati, Davao Oriental.  We got a chance to get up close and intimate with the many tiny beach critters as well!

While the center of Dahican beach is fine white sand, many parts of it are composed of coralline sand and pavement that hid little creatures in nooks and crannies.  When the tide went out in the afternoon, we were happy to explore the tide pools, inspecting all sorts of sea dwellers trapped by in the shallow pools.  

Out beach combing!

During the time we were there, low tide was late in the afternoon. I've always loved beach combing, and the marine intertidal zone is full of stuff to see!

Algae and seagrass grew all over the hard substrate: mostly brown, fan-shaped Padina.

There was also a bit of green sea grass which is probably dugong food in deeper water.

Of course there were several tiny fish to see - many of them familiar reef fish in miniature form.

A tiny, tiny triggerfish:

Cute little boxfish

Small damselfish and a mini-butterflyfish as big as my thumbnail

Camouflaged gobies and other bottom dwellers

It was pretty difficult to take photos of all the fish as they swam around quite quickly!

There were a also a few sea anemones waving their stinging "arms" and looking like fat flowers of the sea.

And hidden sea urchins (short spines, not so scary!)

Small stubby  sea cucumbers.

There was also bits of colorful live coral

Different kinds of polychaete worms: Feather duster tube worms, which would suddenly retract into their tubes at the slightest disturbance...

... and several pink bristle worms which crawled out of their holes to hunt in the open as it got darker.

It seemed that every crevice hid brittle stars, their spiky arms moving lazily across the surface.

There were all sorts of different crabs:

"Hairy" ones like this black one and this pink one (which tried to hide from me)

This one had strange markings which allowed it to disappear into the algae it scuttled into to hide in.

Tiny ones which were perfectly camouflaged and difficult to spot when they froze motionless (can you spot them?)

On the beach, "ghost" crabs played stop and go as they peeked in and out of their holes.

We also saw the source of the many small sea shells which littered the beach: several snails were crawling on the rocks.

We even spotted a tiny venomous cone snail with its bright proboscis out "sniffing" for prey.

I was delighted to see one of my favorite shells from childhood: the ringed cowrie!  There were several of them crawling on the substrate, their beautifully mottled mantles almost entirely covering  the shiny shell I liked collecting when I was very young.

As the sun set, even more creatures were coming out... these two small shrimp were battling it out with their over sized pincers

And hermit crabs became more active

So much to see!  It was only the fading light which finally defeated our beach combing.

Adri: the last to give up because he had a flashlight.

Too often, the beaches of my childhood have suffered from the over zealous collection and development which have all but driven away crawly critters. It was so nice to find a beach which still had so many little treasures of the sea to watch and observe.  

Hopefully future beach goers and beach combers learn to appreciate these spots for the seaside menageries they are, and remember to take nothing but photos, kill nothing but time and leave nothing but footprints (but be careful not to step on any wildife!)

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