Natural La Jolla: So much beauty under the sea!

NATURAL LA JOLLA:

Our beautiful fall sunsets full of red and orange tones are in full bloom; the sun is still warm during the day, but there's a cool breeze and chilly nights. Lobster buoys bob offshore (the season has been open about a month now) and each morning you see little boats tending to their lobster pots.

Under the sea, lots of creatures are going about their lives. We get glimpses of them during great tidepooling opportunities at this time of year. Lazy weekend days during very low tides may be spent peering into the many tidepools along our rocky coast.

You may find giant keyhole limpets and many other types of mollusks like snails and chitons, along with colorful sea stars, anemones (both open and closed) and sea urchins. Limpets and chitons are the mollusks clinging tightly to the rocks; they are nearly impossible to pry away from their hiding places. They make their living by scraping algae and other small creatures off the rocks.

Chitons are inconspicuous and can live to more than 20 years! They are also able to see the difference between passing clouds and a predator shadow, with specialized eyes on their shell. When they see a shadow, they clamp down on the rock as hard as they can. Once the threat has passed, they relax.

The next best tidepooling afternoons will be the first weekend in December. One note: Be careful to leave the creatures where you found them!

— Kelly Stewart is a marine biologist with The Ocean Foundation who writes about the flora and fauna of La Jolla. She may be reached by e-mail: NaturalLaJolla@gmail.com

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