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California Abalone Diving

Strange things happen in Northern California during springtime. Campgrounds and motels that were unoccupied most of the winter are now sold out. Coastal roads that were once empty are bustling with traffic. Large numbers of employees are mysteriously absent from their jobs. A case for the X-Files? No, it’s simply the beginning of abalone season. The red abalone is the world’s largest, and this mollusk thrives on Northern California’s inshore reefs. Red abalones are not as abundant as they once were, but with a little […]

Dream It, Do It

A blue whale, the largest creature to have ever lived, appears on the edge of visibility and then comes into view as it swims through a dense concentration of krill-like crustaceans upon which it feeds. Two male sarcastic fringehead confront each other, opening their gaping mouths as wide as they can in an effort to intimidate their opponent and claim their territory. Cruising in the open sea, a Pacific white-sided dolphin grabs a strand of free-floating kelp with its pectoral flipper as it swims by. […]

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 […]

The Sequential Life of the California Sheephead

Many marine animals are hermaphrodites. Nudibranchs, for instance. It is thought that being able to mate with any same species creature encountered on the reef gives hermaphrodites a better chance of reproducing.  Many fish, gastropods and plants are sequential hermaphrodites. Instead of having both sexes mature in their bodies at the same time, they start life as one sex and become another later. Protandrous creatures change from male to female. Protogynous creatures change from female to male. According to Wikipedia: “About 75 percent of all […]

Homecoming to California Diving

I have just returned home from Orlando, Florida‚äîwhere I did not go to Disney World. However, I did attend the annual Diving Equipment Marketing Association (DEMA) trade show. This “wasn’t my first rodeo,” as a DEMA show attendee. I’ve been to this event thirty-some-odd times and it’s easy to fall into the “same show, different year” mindset.  But not this year. At this year’s show I felt a buzz of excitement, on the show floor that I haven’t noticed in a few years. What was […]

Go Diving. Now.

Experienced California divers know that our diving changes with the seasons. In the winter we can experience squid “runs” and visits from California gray whales. In the spring numerous species including our iconic garibaldi strut their stuff in captivating courtship displays in an effort to win hearts and procreate. In summer the days grow longer and nutrient-rich waters fuel explosions of fish populations.  And then there is fall‚ a magical time of year in California. Weather and water conditions are often at their very best […]

A California Icon — The Garibaldi

One of the first things I learned when I moved to California in 1975 was that the garibaldi (Hypsypops rubicundus) was California’s official state fish. It was something I heard over and over again. The problem was that although widely believed, this information was not true. And to some degree there has been and still is some confusion about the status of this iconic fish.  Today, the garibaldi is indeed officially recognized as California’s state marine fish. The golden trout (Salmo aguabonita, also written as […]

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 […]

California Dreaming

Summertime is here! That means a lot more Californians will be getting scuba certified and there will be a significant uptick in the number of out-of-state divers that visit California to take advantage of what our local diving has to offer. This increase in diving activity gives me an ideal opportunity to welcome all a lot of new divers to the California diving scene and first time diving visitors to our Pacific Ocean backyard.  I’d also like to provide a brief overview of some things […]

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 […]

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