Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Tide Pools

Day 3 of my internship here at Hatfield Marine Science Center, and it feels like I've been here two weeks, because that's about how much awesomeness and learning I've had, crammed into a very short amount of time!
Today we got to go to Yaquina Head tide pools at low tide which was dang freaking awesome!  We climbed all over and saw a lot of neat stuff.  On the drive up of course the first thing we saw was the dock washed up from Japan that everyone has been talking about and tourists come to see.  It's just sitting down there on the beach.
Dock debris from 2011 Japanese tsunami, Newport Oregon
FYI, here is a closeup of the dock.  It's 66 feet long, 19 feet wide, and 7 feet tall.  This is from the Hatfield Marine Science Center blog.
Hatfield Marine Science Center investigated the potentially invasive species aboard the dock.  Click to read more.
You can also read the following press releases from Hatfield Marine Science Center for more info on what happened and the issues with the invasive species:
June 7th - Floating dock from Japan carries potential invasive species
June 22nd - Species identified from the Japanese dock that washed ashore
Very fortuitous that this dock landed a couple miles away from the marine science center here with tons of ongoing research and experts in invasive species!  This will be enough to keep them busy for a long time yet.  As if they weren't busy enough already.

But that is not the focus of this post.  This is:

Yaquina Head lighthouse, Newport Oregon with tide pools in foreground

Now that's some beautiful scenery.  I absolutely love the rocky Oregon coast!  This area in particular is made of basalt.  That means it was formed by volcanic activity - Yaquina Head used to be a volcano.  I thought our guide said this was a possible old site of the Yellowstone Caldera, but I can't find any info backing that up, so I could have heard wrong.   This site has a good summary of the geology of this location.

Basalt cobbles that give Cobble Beach its name
The beach where you go to the tide pools is called Cobble Beach, because it's covered with basalt rocks.  A local told me that if you come here at high tide the waves pick up the rocks and as the surf goes in and out it makes a really neat sound.  Hoping to hear that for myself at some point.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse, Newport Oregon

The Yaquina Head lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in Oregon.  You can learn more about this and the Yaquina Bay lighthouses at this website.

Some awesome finds at the tide pools today: 
Sea anemones

Barnacles and mussels
The black shells are mussels and the white are barnacles
Rocks covered with mussels and barnacles

Coralline Algae

Fellow Sea Grant Scholar, Brian, showing us coralline algae
Coralline Algae gets is name because of its resemblance to coral
Coralline algae that has been bleached by the sun

Crabs (Red Rock Crab?)

 Sea Urchins
Purple sea urchins - look closely, especially in the shadow- there are a bunch

Sea Stars
Sea star in tide pool
Sea stars - the one on the left is eating

Sunflower Sea Star

Sunflower sea star and big red sea urchin- I altered the coloring of the picture so you can see it better

I loved seeing the sunflower sea star, perhaps mainly because I spotted it on my own.  Thanks to Planet Earth, I was familiar with this animal a little bit from the cool time lapse of it trying to get hold of a brittle star for dinner.  Here is the video- it starts out talking about the sea urchins that destroy kelp forests which is also cool.

Mossy Chiton
Chitons look like potato bugs/ pill bugs/ sow bugs/ rolly pollies/ whatever you call them.  But Chitons have 8 plates of armor, are marine, and are in fact mollusks, complete with a foot, gills, and mantle.
Mossy chiton

Gumboot Chiton
The gumboot is the largest species of chiton in the world - and we found one!  That was an exciting find.  Doesn't look like the other chiton right?  Well this one has a fleshy covering over the bony plates, but when you touch it you can still feel them beneath.
Gumboot chiton - largest chiton in the world

You can see the gills here right below Brian's thumb.  The light part in the middle of the animal is the foot, and the sides are the mantle

When disturbed, the gumboot chiton rolls up into a ball just like a potato bug

And lastly, up by the lighthouse we did a little bird watching and I got to learn a bit about the Common Murre.
I know, it's just a rock.... except that all those little black dots are birds
There were a few different kinds of birds on that rock and others nearby but the majority were the murres.  Here's a closeup:

Picture source
They look very similar to penguins as you can see.  And in fact they are pretty poor fliers and can maneuver much better under water.  I watched them fly and really they just kind of jumped off the big rock and awkwardly flapped their way down to the water.
Picture source

The birds don't build a nest but just lay eggs right on the rock.  These large rocks are like big isolated cliffs with sheer drops on all sides.  But the eggs have a clever mechanism for dealing with this.

Common murre egg is in the middle
The shape of the egg allows it to roll in circles- so if it starts to go anywhere on the rock, it will turn and avoid disaster.  Pretty cool.

That was an incredibly cool day!  If you found anything helpful in this post, please leave a rating and a comment!  And if you feel like it, join the site too.  Thanks!


  1. Those chiton things are gross. I've been to Newport and Yaquina Head. They are so beautiful! You got some really nice photos. Be sure to check your batteries every time so we can see all these great sights!

  2. The chitons do look kinda gross I guess. But they don't feel slimy or anything, they just feel leathery. And they curl into a ball when you pick them up! Who wouldn't like that? haha

    Thanks for the picture compliment. I try. :)