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Knowing and Catching California Spiny Lobster

Lobster season opens Saturday, October 3, and many California divers are eagerly awaiting it. This article provides information on the life cycle of these savory crustaceans as well as tips and techniques that will help you catch them. First, let’s take a closer look at Panulirus interruptus, aka the California spiny lobster. The most obvious difference between it and the East Coast’s American lobster is that the American lobster has big claws and the spiny lobster has none. While some sea creatures are involved parents […]

Harboring a Soft Spot for The Harbor Seal

Some marine creatures are easier to love than others. Two of my favorites are the little white sea urchins that decorate themselves with shells and pebbles and the proliferating (also called brooding) anemones whose babies live on their bodies until they are old enough to crawl away and fend for themselves. That anemones could have parenting skills is amazing. I also have a soft spot for harbor seals. Their teardrop shaped bodies are adorably plump and those big round eyes make them seem shy and […]

Sea Slug Courtship and Reproduction

Except for having to dissect a frog, I enjoyed high school biology. As an adult, however, I have found marine biology even more fascinating. Reproduction specifically. I had no idea it could be so complicated under the sea. Take, for instance, nudibranch mating and egg laying. Over the years I have taken photos of a lot of things I could not positively identify. Among them were egg cases. Figuring out the source of some of them was easy because the parent was in the photo […]

Exciting Diving Off Anacapa: Celebrating Eel Encounters

“Blub, blub — oooe‚ — ooooooh, glub!” With the excellent visibility, it was easy to see my dive buddy wildly waving her arms in an excited attempt to get my attention. I’ve seen this many times, and even from afar I can tell it means “excitement” rather than “distress.” I really appreciate when another diver wants to show me something underwater, so I quickly made my way over to her. As I searched the area, looking into a small crevice I noticed what she was […]

A Little Burst of Sunshine: Enjoying Yellow Dorids

Writing articles for this column motivated me to sort my thousands of California marine life images into specific folders such as bryozoans, hydrocorals, crabs, fish, nudibranchs, etc. Nudibranchs are further separated into aeolid and dorid folders — including 40-plus “yellow dorids.”  In the beginning, all of my yellow dorids looked alike to me. However, as time went on, I became more adept at recognizing the subtle differences among the colorful slugs.  There are more than 170 species of nudibranchs living off the Pacific Coast and […]

Shell Games: Classifying SoCal Gastropods

Intriguing shapes and gem-like colors distinguish the seashells shown here — but the vast majority of these fascinating marine creatures are much more cryptic. Many of them live in shells so covered with growth they are difficult to see, let alone identify. Seashells have been around for 500 million years. Many are collected, some are eaten, and some have been used as currency. There’s even a “money cowrie.” Seashells belong to the second largest phylum, Mollusca, which is exceeded in size only by Arthropoda. Various […]

I’m Certain

In this issue longtime contributor Bruce Watkins shares his experience of living a diver’s dream of swimming with a humpback whale mother and calf off the island pinnacle of Roca Partida in Mexico’s Revillagigedo archipelago. Only a day later Bruce and his dive buddies witnessed the violence and reality of nature in its raw, wild state. It is a good read, perhaps a tough read, as it will likely evoke a range of emotions amongst readers. I feel certain that some readers will respond with […]

Not Your Average Anemones: Examining Unusual Species

We’ve discussed cnidarians in this column several times and will likely do so many more. There are about 10,000 species in this phylum and since most of them live in the ocean, divers encounter them all the time. Many are photogenic, which is why my files are full of their images. The two forms of cnidarians, polyps and medusae, are, according to The Shape of Life, “essentially mirrors of each other.” Polyps (i.e., anemones) are attached to a surface on one end by the pedal […]

Cold Water? Lucky Us!

A couple of days ago I was talking to a couple of my diving buddies at a local club meeting, and they were excitedly telling me about their upcoming trips to tropical destinations. As often seems to happen in discussions of that nature the gathering crowd began to explain to each other how easy it is to dive in warm water as opposed to what they make sound like the near-freezing water we have in California. I listened for quite a while, and then I […]

The Mysteries of Marine Algae, Part Two

Last month’s article pointed out that algae are classified as red, brown or green based on the color of their photosynthetic pigments and their evolutionary lineage. They all have chlorophyll a but only green algae look green. Other pigments mask green chlorophyll a in brown and red algae. In this article you will learn that basing an ID on the color of an alga in an underwater photo won’t always result in the correct classification. I thought I had several photos of green algae but […]

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