Saturday, August 25, 2012

Nature Study - Kelp @ San Clemente

"Ugh..." is the typical reaction we have when we see a lot of kelp in the water at the beach. It sloshes around in the waves and wraps onto your legs and sits on the shore in stinky piles attracting millions of annoying flies.

Lately I've felt differently. Which made me wonder: What is it that opens a person's eyes to *see* a thing they have missed for years? I did not see it, did not notice it - and now I do.

It started with me noticing some rows of tiny clear dots on a piece of giant kelp and showing it to the kids. They looked like eggs and I wish I'd taken pictures that day, but I was in the water and didn't think to. The kids held it up to the light and noticed two sets of black eyes!! in each tiny egg stuck to the kelp. I still don't know what they were.

Since then, we've been looking at the kelp.

Here are strands of Feather Boa Kelp on a very bright blue boogie board. Notice anything about them? 

Look closer

There are holes and shells stuck to them.

Pull one off. There's an animal inside =)

Remember Pagoo? My son and I just read it in YR2. It talked about the limpet and the 'scar'? Those are scars on the kelp - literally! There are even pictures of this very thing on page 37 and 39. They're "Discurria insessa"

Now look at these. See the white dots on the floats?

Take a closer look.

Some kind of tube snail. I still don't know what these are, but they are tiny. It's like a nursery of them all over the beach. I also saw something similar on giant kelp fronds that looked like the opening of a cowry shells, but I didn't take pictures that time.

Here's a piece of kelp. What do you think that is on it? 

Look closer.

 They're living animals! Bryozoan. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium:

Bryozoans are small invertebrates that expand from a party of one to a colony of thousands, which might encrust an entire kelp blade. The individual bryozoan—called a zooid—lives within a box-shaped compartment made of calcium carbonate and chitin, a material found in crab shells. Zooids are tiny, perhaps no taller than 1/32 of an inch.

The tiny larval bryozoan is a clamlike swimmer in a bivalve shell. Opening its shell like an umbrella, it parachutes down onto a clean kelp blade. Alert for chemical cues, the bryozoan tests the surface, then cements itself to the blade with a sticky glue. The youngster settles in place and changes to its adult form, a captive within its own shelled rectangular fort. Once established on the kelp, the lone settler begins to multiply. Budding off clones in neat rows, a colony fans out to frost the blade with a crust of the tiny animals. Bryozoan colonies are important food sources for some sea slugs and fish.

Bryozoans possess a unique feeding structure called a lophophore. The lophophore is a U-shaped or circular ring of ciliated tentacles used for filter feeding. Extending a crown of tentacles above its shell, the bryozoan flicks its tentacles through the water to catch bits of food.

What is truly fascinating to me is that while we are boogie boarding and eating our lunch and chatting away; completely unaware, thousands and thousands of these tiny little creatures are making their living waving their tentacles out of their rectangular forts on a piece of kelp right there.

Opening our eyes to nature never ceases to amaze me at how truly spectacular His creation is. 

Look at these beautiful rocks that are just scattered all over the beach.

Aren't they breathtaking?

And how about this cutie =)



  1. Wonderfully post, Naomi! Really, this life opens our eyes in soooo many ways, doesn't it? I love your format in this post - very creative delivery.

  2. Wow! Love this post - so sad we don't live nearer the sea :( we'll just have to find some of our own treasures near the Great Lakes ;)

    On a logistical note - my daughter is 2 and I'm just beginning to research CM & I was wondering how you go about finding/picking living books? I've never even heard of Pagoo!

  3. Thank you Nancy :)
    loveandstories, you can find a fantastic booklist at www.amblesideonlne.org in their YR0 curriculum. You can also ask on their forum (www.amblesideonline.org/forum) for living book recommendations. They have a YR0 subforum that is an excellent place to lurk and ask questions while your daughter is still pre-school age.

  4. This is awesome Naomi! I need to show it to my children when they're awake tomorrow--we feed granulated kelp to our goats as a nutritional supplement. They will find this fascinating...

  5. Oh my goodness. HOW interesting!!! We love Pagoo around here too! :)

  6. Great post, Naomi! I will be looking at all that sea kelp quite differently now.