So last time I just focused on the chitons, but there were many other very cool creatures to be seen at Golden Gardens during the minus tide on Memorial Day.

One of the very first things we saw as we walked toward where the shore birds were swooping (including one bald eagle!) was a sunflower sea star. I’ve never seen one of these before in the wild, so it was clearly already a good day.


Another thing we saw a lot of were sand collars from moon snails. I’d never seen one of these either, believe it or not. Moon snails are vicious predators, and in fact In one of my chiton photos there’s a moon snail victim in the frame. You can tell from the circular hole drilled into the shell by the moon snail’s radula.


Another extremely common sight were clam siphons sticking up out of the sand. I don’t know what kind of clams they were–maybe butter clams?– but it was funny to see them shoot jets of water into the air every once in a while. There were enough of them on the beach that you didn’t have to wait more than a few seconds to see one in your periferal vision. Kind of like watching a meteor shower.

The undersides of boulders are good places to find things. A bunch of ocher stars are clinging to this one here.


Under this boulder were a bunch of sea cucumbers. I’ve seen sea cucumbers while snorkeling in Alaksa, but the guides dove down to retrieve them from the sea floor. These are the first ever sea cucumbers spotted by mine own eyes. Also a lovely anemone in the photo.


This rock is just covered in anemones. In my mind, one anemone got some delusions of grandeur and just cloned the crap out of itself.


There were also lots of barnacle-encrusted boulders. Here’s one with a passing train in the background.


And to bring things back to mollusks, here’s a little snail clinging onto a boulder. It’s a funny sensation to touch a shell to see if it still has something alive inside and feel it grip onto the rock. This dude wasn’t going to budge.


All in all, a very good outing. I have to keep an eye on the tides here in New York and check out what’s to be seen in my own neck of the woods. A goal of mine is to see a horseshoe crab, another of my favorite invertebrates, along the water under the Brooklyn Bridge.

I was in Seattle over Memorial Day weekend for a wedding, and there was a minus tide Monday morning. I couldn’t resist a chance to see some of the creatures that live in this most beloved habitat of mine. Seattle has a few spots to go tidepooling, but the one closest to where I was staying is Golden Gardens Park. The tide wasn’t that low, so conditions weren’t ideal, but my husband and I saw a bunch of cool stuff nonetheless, including some of my favorite mollusks, chitons! Here’s one of the ones we saw.


I’m going to focus on chitons in this post because there’s some cool chiton news as of late: Chiton eyes! The extra cool thing: they are made of rock, aragonite in particular. They also seem to do more than just sense light and dark: in laboratory conditions, it seemed the chitons can perhaps tell the difference between threatening darkness from a predator’s approach as opposed to darkness caused by a cloud momentarily blotting out the sun. Also cool is that the eyes work either underwater or in air. That seems pretty handy if you happen to be living in the intertidal zone.

Chitons are not the only creatures with rock eyes. Trilobites had rock eyes too. Trilobite eyes were also made of calcium carbonate crystals, but a different crystal formation, namely calcite. Chitons are the first organisms discovered to have aragonite for their rock eyes.

The chitons we saw were mossy chitons, which I believe don’t have eyes, but they fascinating anyway. Here’s another that we saw.


I keep comparing NMNH to AMNH, because I just can’t help it. I’m at AMNH probably about once a month, so I just know it well. Their fossils of vertebrate origins, dinosaurs, marine reptiles, extinct mammals, and animal relatives are truly amazing. I bet they also have a dandy invertebrate fossil collection, but they don’t display it. What a dream it would be to plumb the depths of that museum, open some drawers. Anyway, NMNH doesn’t actually have that many dinosaurs, so guess what that means? Inverts ahoy! Ammonites make the prettiest fossils, I must say.


I’m so glad there’s a hand in here for scale, even if it does belong to Bruce Springsteen circa 1984.


I love this action painting of ammonites getting chomped by a mosasaur.


In addition to going to the Natural History Museum, I also went to the National Zoo! Obligatory panda photo:


The amazing thing is that the National Zoo has a wonderful building devoted to invertebrates. The building is near the komodo dragon, which is also awesome, by the way. All sorts of cool invertebrates are on display in the building including insects, corals, echinoderms, etc, and mollusks, naturally. There were a bunch of nautiluses and one lone cuttlefish together in one tank.


And a Pacific Giant Octopus in another tank, who made a run for it as soon as the camera came out. How cool! I was not expecting mollusks at the zoo; what a bonus. DC loves mollusks!


Onto the extant mollusks at the Natural History Museum. The museum with which I am most acquainted, AMNH in New York, has lots of preserved specimens, but not that many invertebrates. They really focus on the mammal dioramas there and the creepy halls of stuffed birds. The NMNH in DC, in addition to doing the taxidermy thing, is not afraid of stuff in jars, including giant squid!Here’s one.

And here’s the other one, laid out horizontally, which really does give a better effect. I was excited to see how many people were constantly crowded around this. It’s also about as gory a thing as you’re likely to see in a museum, frankly. Well, I haven’t been to the Mütter Museum, which is likely a notable exception.
Also a clubhook squid.
There were also plenty of seashells to be seen, as you can see here.
Next up, the fossils! Here’s a teaser:

OK, so this trip to DC. It was like mollusk overload! Not really, I can’t overload on mollusks. The two big things on my DC itinerary were the zoo and the Natural History Museum. The forecast called for rain on Saturday and sun on Sunday, so that made that decision pretty easy.

The main goal at the Natural History Museum was to see the crocheted coral reef, which was indeed incredible. There were so many different parts to the exhibit, and they had a zoologist and a crocheter on hand to talk to people.

One friend I was with had the interesting if somewhat philosophical question: Is coral rock? The zoologist said no, but clearly at some point coral becomes rock, right? The Guadalupe Mountains in Texas are primarily a coral reef from the Permian Period, for example, and I’m quite sure people would say that’s rock. At what point does coral achieve rockness?

But back to the crochet and the mollusks. I was delighted to see that mollusks were represented among the crocheted organisms.

Like this octopus! Well, unless it’s a jellyfish. I didn’t actually count the tentacles.

I like to think this curly thing on the floor is a nudibranch. But then again it’s just as likely it’s a marine flatworm like Pseudobiceros hancockanus. Hrm.

OK, this one! This one’s definitely a clam. Phew.


I’m back from St. Louis, and I really do want to recap the goings-on from my weekend in DC, but there’s a very pressing issue at hand.

I was visiting a friend who lives in an old farmhouse, and he is very tastefully outfitting it in a charming, antiquey style. Behold.

We spent some time at antique malls and flea markets, and, well, have a look for yourself.

Hm, that’s ugly.

The glitter! My eyes!

Now it’s hard to tell, but I’m pretty sure they dragged a sea urchin into the fray here.

Ouch. Was the carving really necessary?

I’m not even sure how this one works, plug-wise.

This is just the pièce de résistance, isn’t it? Words other than “Parrots? Really?” fail me.

I can’t stand idly by. I’ll call it the Society for the Prevention of Seashell Atrocities. These are all “antiques,” but something tells me the desecration of perfectly lovely seashells for profit is not an activity only done in days of yore. Who will join me in the fight?

Sneak Preview

I just got back from a whirlwind and very mollusk-filled weekend in DC. I have lots to talk about, but I’m flying off to St. Louis today for my spring break vacation on my friend’s farm. I’ll give you a little glimpse into my weekend, though…