Marine Life Identification

A Worm By Any Other Name — Taking a Look at SoCal Tube Worms

“Worm” has numerous meanings, including: a weak or despicable person; a self-replicating, detrimental computer program; or, the coiled pipe of a still in which vapor is cooled and condensed. In this article, however, worm means a creeping or burrowing sedentary invertebrate animal with a long, slender, soft body and no true limbs. That description is unlikely to inspire you to look for marine worms, which would be a shame, because all are interesting and some are beautiful.  The worms of which I speak are the […]

A Squid Snowstorm

“If they only knew.” That was the thought that ran through my mind as I surfaced at 12:40 a.m. on New Year’s morning on a dive that had began in the final hour of the previous year. It was an extremely clear night, and from my vantage point as we hit the surface I could see the bright lights of the ritzy coastal community of La Jolla. I feel certain that the terrestrial party animals thought they were having a wild time ringing in the […]

Gorgonian Corals: Admiring California’s Sea Fans

Gorgonian corals, known as sea fans and also called horny corals, belong to the Phylum Cnidaria (the “C” is silent), which means “nettle” in Greek and includes hydroids, anemones, jellyfish and corals. All cnidarians are carnivores and their tentacles contain tiny harpoons (nematocysts) that can be fired to repel predators and catch food.  There are two cnidarian forms, polyps and medusae. Polyps are attached to a surface on one end by the pedal disk, while the oral disk at the other end is unattached and […]

Blend In or Brawl? Crabs as Misunderstood Crustaceans

Some of the sea creatures I’ve described for California Diving News are more than a little aggressive. Many crabs, however, prefer hiding to fighting even when equipped with those seemingly formidable defensive tools called claws. Like 75 percent of all animals, crabs belong to the phylum Arthropoda, which means jointed leg and includes not only aquatic creatures, but also many terrestrial ones, such as spiders, scorpions, centipedes and millipedes. The subphylum Crustacea includes crabs, lobsters, shrimps, barnacles, amphipods and isopods. Some isopods and a few […]

The Secret Lives of SoCal Rockfishes

With more than 100 rockfish species worldwide, about 60 live in the ocean off the SoCal coast. Some are closely related and look very much alike. Colors of the same species can vary and at least some of the fish are chameleon-like, changing color to match their surroundings. Additionally, rockfishes are evolving and forming new species at what Dr. Milton Love calls “a frightening rate.” So is it any wonder many of them are a challenge to identify? I sought out Dr. Love’s expertise and […]

Marine Life: Bad-Ass ‘Branchs: The Mighty Aeolids

In researching last month’s article on dorids, I finally got around to sorting my more than 370 photos of nudibranchs according to their classifications. I also looked for images for that article (on Doridacea) and this one (on Aeolidacea). The majority of nudibranchs are dorids and when the sorting was complete, that was overwhelmingly evident. I had loads of dorid images and they were of several different species. My many images of aeolids, however, were of just four species.  Aeolidacea are named for the Greek […]

Those Darling Dorids: SoCal Nudies Exposed

Many underwater photographers love nudibranchs and I am not the only one with numerous images of these colorful creatures. We Southern California divers are lucky; of the more than 170 species found off the Pacific Coast, a large number live in our part of the ocean.  Most nudibranchs range in size from less than an inch to several inches long and can have unusual shapes. While a few have colors that serve as camouflage, most are flamboyant eye-catchers. They can afford to be highly visible […]

Naming Names: A Diver’s Guide to Taxonomy

As kids most of us learned the common names of many of the plants and animals we encountered in our everyday lives. We learned the common names of various trees, flowers and butterflies as well as names of iconic species such as the bald eagle and killer whale. For many years and most applications our use of common names seemed perfectly sufficient when it came to communicating with our peers. Aside from cartoon aficionados that sometimes referred to the speedy and often mischievous Road Runner […]

She Seas Sea Stars: Sea Stars Exposed

Lying on or crawling ever so slowly across the bottom, the sea star looks deceptively simple and slightly out of place — like it might have fallen from a child’s crude drawing of the night sky and landed on the sea floor. But don’t let the sea star’s appearance fool you. It’s a complex, fascinating creature, indeed.  For example, the sea star doesn’t have to ingest its food; it covers it with its oral disc (body) and then extrudes its stomach (which resembles a tiny, […]

Spiny Skinned and Symmetrical: California’ s Sea Urchins

My introduction to sea urchins — on my first scuba dive — was a learning experience. I learned how easily their sharp, brittle spines pierce human skin. Most importantly, I learned to avoid contact with sea urchins, which is easy because the animals are sedentary, slow moving and not aggressive. Sea urchins are classified as Echinodermata, which means “spiny skinned”. The 6,000-member phylum also includes sea stars, brittle stars, sea lilies and sea cucumbers.  Five is a magic number when it comes to echinoid body […]

Page 6 of 16« First...234567891011...Last »
California Diving News © 2016