algae

Admiring California Hydrocoral

Much prized by underwater photographers for its beautiful colors, California hydrocoral (Stylaster californicus) is one of the 350 species of hydroids in the Phylum Cnidaria. A close cousin of the fire corals found in tropical waters, it is not a true (stony) coral.  Cnidaria (the “C” is silent) is not a small, insignificant phylum. It contains approximately 10,000 species, at least 100 of which are dangerous to humans. The phylum name means “nettle” in Greek and its members include some of the most photogenic animals […]

Camouflage and Courtship: The Colorful Lives of California Kelpfish

Giant kelpfish tend to keep their distance. I have many images of them taken from several feet away as they pretend to be part of the scenery. Since they can change colors (red, lime green, yellow and brown) and patterns to match the kelp or algae in which they have chosen to lurk, as long as they remain stationary this camouflage works quite well. It is their surreptitious slinking through the water that brings them to your attention. Years ago while I was diving off […]

Giant Kelp: The Mainstay of Our Kelp Forests

Has any well-intentioned person ever told you that giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera, is the world’s fastest growing plant? Unfortunately, if they have, you have been misinformed.  So, does this mean that there is another plant that grows faster than giant kelp? Or was giant kelp never the fastest growing plant? Maybe your informant meant to say that giant kelp is the world’s fastest growing marine plant. Still not true. Confused? Many are. Here’s the skinny: Not too many years ago your informant would have been […]

Bunny Love: The California Brown Sea Hare

Although the California brown sea hare bears a faint resemblance to a rabbit, it is actually a very large sea slug. A member of the phylum mollusca and class gastropoda, it is a cousin of both nudibranchs and octopuses. Like nudibranchs, brown sea hares are hermaphrodites. Like octopuses, they can produce ink.  The brown sea hare has a reticulated color pattern that resembles that of the two-spot octopus, also found in SoCal waters. And despite the name, these animals aren’t always brown; sometimes they are […]

Soft Bodies, Striking Beauty: Uncommon Opisthobranchs

Some of the prettiest creatures in the sea belong to the phylum Mollusca, most specifically the subclass Opisthobranchia, which includes sea slugs, sea butterflies, sea angels and sea hares, along with sacoglossans. Though they may have shells when they are embryos, most have lost them by the time they are adults. Never heard of sea butterflies or sea angels or know what sacoglossans are? Me, either! So pardon a short digression. While you may be envisioning ethereal creatures, sea angels and sea butterflies don’t look […]

Very Large, Indeed: In Praise of Giant Kelp

Taxonomists got it right when they assigned giant kelp its Latin name, Macrocystis pyrifera. It is indeed very large in scale, scope and capability. We are lucky, you and I, that giant kelp — the largest kelp in the world — grows off our coast. With sunlight sparkling down through the canopy, swimming through a kelp forest can be summed up as an awesome, magical underwater experience. Giant kelp is a type of brown algae (yes, algae) that can grow up to 24 inches a […]

Diving with Seahorses–Am I California Dreaming?

After diving for 2½ hours underwater in the murky Mission Bay in San Diego, I am starting to have doubts that there are any seahorses here. All that I’ve seen is algae, stingrays, and more algae. Checking my air gauge, it’s getting low and I decide that I have to get back to shore. Just before the water is shallow enough for me to stand, I can’t believe what I see in front of me. Could it be real? I had to pinch myself, twice. […]

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