Hatchlings at the Seattle Aquarium

Meet the “lumpsuckerlings!”

As you might imagine, rearing baby lumpsuckers from eggs is a challenging process. But Seattle Aquarium staff have found success for a long time and have contributed to the larger community’s general understanding of this adorable fish species’ early needs. Since 1978, the Aquarium has documented ways of rearing larval lumpsuckers, including releasing several hundred six-month old, Aquarium-raised lumpsuckers to the San Juan Islands back in 1995.

Female lumpsuckers typically lay their eggs in an empty barnacle shell, where a male then takes on guard duty. In the care of humans, hatched larval lumpsuckers will usually eat brine shrimp nauplii (larval brine shrimp), but finding the ideal food source can be a sticky task for aquarists as the fish develop.

The most recent clutch of hatched lumpsuckers at the Seattle Aquarium are currently six weeks old and are thriving on a diet of rotifers (microscopic animals) and newly hatched nauplii. Ultimately, they will be introduced to previously frozen food like euphasids (shrimp-like, planktonic marine crustaceans related to krill).

Red octopus hatchlings

After six months of incubating behind the scenes, a clutch of Pacific red octopus (Octopus rubescens) eggs hatched and were sent on their way back out to Puget Sound. Aquarium staff allowed the larval octopuses to freely flow through the outflow since they will have the best chance of survival in the wild.

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Join the Seattle Aquarium and say goodbye to single-use plastics!

In a blog post a few weeks ago, we told you about our move to eliminate plastic beverage bottles, lids and straws at the Aquarium—and now we’re excited to let you know about our involvement in the Aquarium Conservation Partnership (ACP) and its “In Our Hands” campaign to reduce use of disposable plastics.

The ACP, composed of 19 public aquariums—including the Seattle Aquarium—was created to inform, guide and coordinate action by public aquariums across North America to advance conservation of the ocean, lakes and rivers. The first project? A coordinated campaign to reduce single-use plastics called “In Our Hands.”

Ocean plastics are a very serious—and growing—issue. A few stats to illustrate the extent of the problem:

  • Approximately 8.8 million tons of plastic enters the ocean each year—equivalent to one dump truck full of plastic per minute.
  • Plastic debris can now be found in almost every marine habitat on Earth, from polar sea ice to major ocean gyres to the bottom of the deepest ocean trench.
  • If current practices continue, plastic input into the ocean is expected to double by 2025.
  • Fifty-four percent of all marine mammal species, and 56 percent of all seabird species have been affected by entanglement (mostly by plastic rope and netting) or ingestion (mostly by plastic fragments and microplastic) of marine debris, and the frequency of encounters has increased over time.

The solution is in our hands. And you can be part of it by choosing alternatives to single-use plastics and encouraging others to do the same! Learn more on our website.

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Know your beach-this week from the beach

#5 in the 2017 series of guest blog posts by Seattle Aquarium beach naturalists Bobby Arispe and Jen Strongin.

Leather Star

Did you make it out to the last series of minus tides on our local beaches? If not, don’t despair! We have another set of some of the lowest tides of the summer coming up July 21–25. I had the great pleasure of working during the past two low tides at several beaches: Lincoln, South Alki and Seahurst.

Each beach has its own flavor. If you want to spot an octopus, Lincoln is your best bet. If you want to see sea stars, crabs, moon snails and nudibranchs, South Alki won’t disappoint. If you want to see living sand dollars, huge clams and maybe an unusual find or two, Seahurst is your place.

All three beaches are marine preserves. This means the habitat is protected and collecting or harvesting of any kind is not allowed—what you see on the beach, stays on the beach (bring your camera to document what you find)! I love that we live in a city that values the conservation of our very special marine habitats.

Every visit to the beach is an adventure with new discoveries. At South Alki this past week, along with all of my favorite animals, I saw a couple of unexpected surprises. The first was a juvenile salmon that swam into the collapsible forest of eelgrass right next to me. It was the first time I had seen a salmon during low tide at my home beach. Our forests of eelgrass provide an important habitat for young fish like salmon and sand lance. It gives them shelter and a place to hide from predators. I would have loved to take a photo of that beautiful salmon but it was so fast and the eelgrass did its job of hiding it!

Beach etiquette tip of the week: Eelgrass is the “unwelcome mat” for us humans. Walk around it when you can to avoid trampling juvenile fish, eggs and other animals hiding there!

I do have some photos of the second surprise. At the north end of South Alki, my friend and fellow beach naturalist, Preston, showed me some ten-tentacled anemones. Super small, maybe an inch in diameter at the most, these beautiful anemones are worth seeking out. They burrow into the sand and quickly withdraw their tentacles and disappear if disturbed.

Burrowing Sea Cucumber

At Seahurst Beach, I was convinced I had found a crazy, tentacle-headed worm! A young visitor, exploring the many holes left behind by clams on the beach, had found a couple of these interesting-looking animals. After taking lots of photos and video and observing it for a while, I went home determined to find out what it was we’d been looking at. It turns out, it was a species of burrowing sea cucumber, Leptosynapta clarki. This beautiful, worm-like sea cucumber feeds on bits of organic material in the sand. You can see its feeding tentacles at work in the video above. It also lacks respiratory structures and instead, absorbs oxygen through its skin.

Striped Nudibranch

At Lincoln Beach, my favorite discovery was a striped nudibranch, Armina californica. One of the larger nudibranchs, this species can reach six inches in length. You’re likely to find it part buried in the sand, hunting for its favorite food: sea pens.

Basket Top Spaghetti Tube Worm

I admit to being a bit disappointed that my burrowing sea cucumber at Seahurst wasn’t a cool worm. We have so many beautiful and interesting marine worms here in the Salish Sea. Take, for example, the basket-top spaghetti tube worm, pictured above. You might overlook it, thinking it’s some algae or detritus, but it’s really a spectacular structure. The worm builds a tube-shaped home and then adorns the top of it with this intricate, fibrous basket. The basket may serve as protection, camouflage or even a filter for food.

Red Banded Commensal Scale Worm on a Striped Sun Star

The red-banded commensal scale worm is often found living on a host of another species, like this striped sun star. It is very territorial, and has been known to bite attackers of its host or other commensal worms hoping to join the party!

Bat Worm and Flat Worm

Although its common name is bat star worm because of its commensal relationship with bat stars, this striking polychaete worm is often found living on its own here in Puget Sound. Muddy sand, pilings and floats are good places to find one.

Northern Feather Duster Tube Worm

The northern feather duster worms are my favorites. They look like flowers in bloom when they are under the water. Their fringy tentacles are used for both feeding and respiration (and for wowing us land dwellers!). They build their tube homes out of mucus and sediment.

Calcareous Tube Worms on a Cockle Shell

Look on and under rocks and you’re sure to see evidence of calcareous tube worms. Their maze-like, calcium carbonate homes give their soft bodies protection from predators. Like the northern feather duster, the various species of calcareous tube worms use fringy tentacles to feed and breathe.

We look forward to seeing you out on the beach! Don’t forget to tag photos of all of your beach finds with #beachnaturalist #knowyourbeach #beachnaturalists #seattleaquarium. Happy tide pooling!

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Meet Seattle Aquarium beach naturalists on local shorelines this summer! Check our website for dates, times, locations and directions.

About Jen:

Jen writes:

“I ventured westward from Albany, NY and fell madly in love with our city from the moment I arrived. It was 21 years ago this August when Seattle first charmed me with its lush, forested parks, beautiful beaches, and water and mountain views (when the skies are clear enough) all around.

I spent the first half of my 21 years here immersed in Seattle’s wonderful coffee culture. My husband and I owned and operated Victrola Coffee on Capitol Hill until 2008. We sold our business that year to spend more time with our newborn son and I have been a stay-at-home, homeschooling mama and budding photographer and naturalist ever since! It started with me taking my young son to the beach, gazing into tide pools and wanting to know more about what we were looking at. Soon, I was going to the beach by myself, every low tide I could, and following the Seattle Aquarium beach naturalists around asking questions. 🙂

I signed up to be an interpretive volunteer at the Seattle Aquarium in 2013, became a beach naturalist volunteer in 2014, and this will be my second year as an official member of the Seattle Aquarium staff as a beach captain. My favorite place to be is on the beach, with my camera, sharing my love and knowledge of our intertidal dwellers with the hope that I will inspire others to love and protect the Salish Sea and the ocean beyond.”

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King County voters: Increase access to the wonders of the marine environment-support Prop 1!

“As a parent of a kid with special needs, I cannot thank you enough for a night where we feel like we belong.”

Taken from a survey about the Aquarium’s recent DreamNight event, those words sum up the feelings of many parents who attend the event with children. Twice each year, the Aquarium opens its door to children and adults with disabilities or special health care needs for DreamNight—a chance to relax and explore our exhibits at their own pace and in their own way while enjoying an assortment of talks, activities and demonstrations. Admission is complimentary.

The comment we hear most frequently from DreamNight attendees? “Please do more of these.”

The passage of Prop 1, Access for All, could allow the Aquarium to do just that—expand our DreamNight programming so even more people can learn about our amazing one world ocean and all the fascinating animals that depend on its health to survive.

And that’s just one of the ways that Access for All could make a difference at the Seattle Aquarium. Currently, about 40,000 schoolchildren visit the Aquarium on field trips each year. The passage of Prop 1 could allow us to increase school participation by 10–15 percent, so even more kids could benefit from our conservation programming—via field trips as well as outreach, an area where we can’t currently keep up with demand.

In a statement supporting Prop 1, Aquarium President & CEO Robert W. Davidson wrote, “The Seattle Aquarium is the largest platform for marine conservation education in the state of Washington. We currently reach almost one million people each year—including over 60,000 students and others from underserved communities who we welcome free or at reduced rates. But even with this strong impact, there are large numbers of King County residents, especially families with young children, who we are unable to reach because neither our resources nor theirs are sufficient. Access for All will help us to much more fully bring our mission to citizens of all ages and geographic locations in King County.”

Increase access to the Seattle Aquarium and other important arts, science and heritage institutions—vote to approve King County Prop 1 on your August 1 ballot! Visit our website, or the Access for All website, for more information.

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Know your beach-this week from the beach

#4 in the 2017 series of guest blog posts by Seattle Aquarium beach naturalists Bobby Arispe and Jen Strongin.

Alki Beach Park, South Alki, “the rocky side,” Constellation Park, Charles Richey Sr. Viewpoint—it may have a lot of names but this stretch of beach is one of my favorites in Seattle. A diversity of habitats are what makes it great for low-tide beach walks. On the south end, there’s a large boulder wall with so much life in every nook and cranny. We often see very large painted and plumose anemones, and find ourselves at eye level with purple sea stars and snappy barnacles. If you bring a flashlight to light up the dark crevasses, you can discover even more creatures that call this wall home.

Exploring the boulder wall.

Exploring the boulder wall.

A painted anemone retracts its tentacles as the tide goes out.

An anemone sags without the water to float in.

Next we have eelgrass beds and sandy flats. We always try to walk around, not through, the eelgrass beds. Eelgrass is a delicate home to kelp crabs, young salmon and other small fish. In the sandy gaps, between the grass, we see kelp crabs running around, decorated with little bits of green algae stuck to their backs. In the sandy flats a big treat for us is to find a moon snail. These large gastropods are voracious predators, using their drill-like mouths to suck clams from their shells. And they make something that causes one of the most frequent questions we get on the beach: “What are these gray plasticity looking things, are they trash?” Moon snail egg collars! They may feel like plastic and look like a toilet plunger, but they are made by these snails. Combining mucus, sand and millions of eggs, their distinct shape is formed by the moon snail’s body and shell. I love how excited people get when they learn about these. Plus they are home to so many smaller creatures.

Low tide on Alki beach.

A barnacle-eating dorid and a tiny skeleton shrimp on an egg collar.

A spaghetti worm who lost its tube home.

On to the long row of rocks that goes out into the water. This is the sweet spot for all kinds of creatures. This time we found something amazing: a huge gumboot chiton. This one was about 8–9 inches long and really camouflaged between two rocks. These chitons can grow up to 13 inches long and live up to 20 years. They also have a unique worm and tiny crab that often live in their underside flaps. And they have a radula (kinda like their tongue) that is coated in a hard magnetic material. All and all, a pretty cool meatloaf-looking critter.

A gumboot chiton hides between rocks.

Sharing our gumboot find.

A small blood star.

If you keep going north on the beach, you’ll encounter big, sandy tide pools with thousands of small aggregating anemones, and small rock ledges with dozens of lined and mossy chitons. Larger rocks at the far north end of the beach are always a happy home for lots of bright orange sea cucumbers and more brilliant purple sea stars.

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If it’s an extra special day, you could see a humpback whale breaching, playful harbor seals popping up, or ospreys and bald eagles dive-bombing into the water for a fish. All with ice cream and pizza just a short walk away. Alki Beach is a pretty special place.

A stubby rose anemone in a shallow tide pool.

A beautiful summer day on Alki.

Meet Seattle Aquarium beach naturalists on local shorelines this summer! Check our website for dates, times, locations and directions.

About Bobby:

This is Bobby’s second year as a beach naturalist.

His passion for the Salish Sea started when he and his wife moved to Seattle four years ago from San Antonio, Texas.

Bobby is an avid photographer and enjoys capturing his adventures of the Pacific Northwest. During the week you will find him biking to work where he leads a creative team at a local marketing agency.


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