Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tuesday Evening With Sanibel Sea Critters

The low temperature last night was a pleasant 71 degrees. Today it reached 91, which would have been too warm for me, but there was wind to help cool you off.

This evening we went to the beach at the Nerita St access, because when we were on the east end, evening before last, the tide was really low and we figured it would be again. As we walked out toward the beach, we could see that we had been right. The tide was out and people were walking around in ankle to knee deep water, looking for shells.

As it turned out, there were a lot of live critters walking around in the water. The other people shelling seemed disappointed every time they picked up a shell and it was alive. On the other hand, they were excited just watching them crawl around. There were all kinds of shells, most of them were small, except for several large cockles and medium size tulips. There really weren't any shells on the shore that I saw worth picking up, other than 3 bubble shells and a tip of a worm shell. But, I had a ball just walking in the warm water and watching see critters. :)

Sea Pork
As you can see, not many shells, mostly crumbs.

There was a lady almost laying down, as she dug in the sand.

The Sanibel Holiday Inn.

I hadn't seen a crab like this one before. Anyone know what kind it is?

This guy looked like he might have had a little too much brew.

The shorebirds sure had plenty to feast on this evening.

A Horseshoe Crab that got left high and dry. The Horseshoe Crabs are a primitve creature, sometimes called a living fossil. They are pretty interesting, they look dangerous, but they aren't. The weird thing is that they are really not true crabs at all. They are members of an ancient group of arthropods, and distant relatives of the spider and scorpion. ?? I know; seems pretty strange that they live in water. If you are wondering what they eat, that would be clams, worms and some other invertebrates. They place the tastey morsels near their mouth in the center of its underside where the legs are attached and then crush and grind it with the rough section of the legs. There are five pairs of legs. They use the first four for walking and the fifth pair has flaps that are used for pushing. the pinchers on that last pair are also used for cleaning their gills in the abdomen. The males first pair of legs are heavier than the females. Interesting piece of information, just in case you see more than one and would like to know which are males and females. :) The tail looks like a rudder, and that's what it is used for. If it happens to get flipped over, it can dig itself into the sand with the tail to support itself as it turns over. The Horseshoe crab, that's not a crab, actually has two sets of eyes. The large set are for polarized light and the other set is for ultraviolet light. During Spring and early Summer, Horseshoe crabs come onto shore to lay their eggs during the high tides of full and new moons when the water rises highest on the beach. When the female is ready to lay her eggs eggs, she crawls up to the high water line on the beach with a male attached to her. She drags him around during spawning. There may also be several others around her trying to fertilize the eggs. She digs herself into the sand where she buries a cluster of around 4000 tiny green eggs. She may lay several clusters in one night and can spawn over several nights to lay over 100,000 eggs. The eggs hatch in two to four weeks. The larvae enter the water during a high tide, looking like a miniature adult with no tail. For the first nine years of their life, they continually molt. Their lifespan is around 20 years.

Sorry, I got a little carried away there. I had read about the Horseshoe Crabs a while back and just gave myself a little refresher course. Yes....that was more information than you ever wanted or needed to know about a Horseshoe Crab. :)

This is what I carried home today.


Mid-Atlantic Martha said...

Oh, I can almost still smell the beach! Loved our stay on your island last week -- I'm "following" you to keep in touch with Sanibel until we get the pleasure to spend some time there again.

gpc said...

Very cool information about horseshoe crabs -- I keep 'learning' about but since I forget almost immediately, it's always good to hear it again! Sometimes when I come in December I see dozens of them, but I've never seen a live one. :(

Little Black Scrap Cat said...

Great photo tour today. Love the wispy clouds. Lots of nice shell pics - which I assume were all live since you didn't carry them home.... Except maybe the one who had too much brew!

Pam said...

This is a really special post, Tootie. I love seeing the live mollusks and other creatures; they're just fascinating to watch. I remember many years ago seeing hundreds and hundreds of mating horseshoe crabs on Lighthouse Beach ... they just covered it to the point there was nowhere to walk. It was kind of creepy because they looked like giant alien bugs to us at the time, but I'm glad I now have that memory to look back on.

ღ Alice ღ ™ said...

It's a freaky looking crab..never seen cockle live,that was cool. I really liked your pics,so many cool shells,the beer can pic was funny :) Thanks for sharing :)

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

I am in awe of that area! It's my dream to visit and spend time on that gorgeous beach! Thanks for sharing your photos and the shells you found! ♥