Shoreline Outing Summary: Willow Point Reef, June 17th, 2019

We had a great outing yesterday at the Willow Point Reef just south of Campbell River. Endless thanks to Sandra Milligan from NIC for leading the group and knowing this shoreline inside and out. We got to see an octopus den and a diversity of life (82 species) greater than any encountered thus far since the inception of the shoreline group. A species list follows at the end, varying little from what Sandra provided the group. My photo observations have been posted to CVN Shoreline iNaturalist Page. Please add your photos and observations if you feel so inclined. Pictures, comments and meandering notes follow below.

Keystone to Barestone: The Visible Consequence of Starfish Wasting Disease

One of the things that Sandra showed us was the direct consequences to shore life when a keystone species is suffering. In this case, the keystone species was the Purple Sea Star (Pisaster ochraceus), a prominent predatory echinoderm. The wasting disease that we have seen in action has reduced numbers of this species as well as other asteroids (yes, that is a technical name for sea stars and their relatives). At the Willow Point Reef, this has led to a population boom in a species that they prey on. We saw thickets of purple and green sea urchins (pictured above) occupying relatively bald sandstone bedrock. Sandra pointed out that these regions were formerly covered in the large kelp Alaria. Graceful as this winged kelp is to us, it is tasty to the urchins who are free to prey on the kelp as their population explodes absent the controlling presence of the sea stars. Sandra mentioned the voids left by Alaria and the rich kelp beds in the area are being filled by Sargassum, that bulby invasive brown seaweed.

Gumboot Chitons Everywhere
Despite its presence on Sandra’s species list, few of us expected to see so many big gumboot chitons filling the cracks and hugging the sandstone. The largest was somewhere north of 12 inches. This is a species that is hard to see on the shoreline. They spend most of the year in under the lowest tide line, moving up to exposed shore only to breed. This species, like most intertidal chitons is a “cow” (Sandra’s term for herbivorous grazers), consuming algae big (kelps) and small (diatomaceous crusts). Their enormous size does not happen overnight. Encased within the stubbly encompassing girdle are the same plates common to all chitons. These plates mineralize during regular, annual growth phases. Scientists can count the rings of growth in the plates much like the rings in of a tree to determine their age. It turns out they can live up to 40 years.
Colourful corals of Campbell River
Betty had mentioned being able to see corals on the shoreline in places on the island, but the point in front of the Panago seemed an unlikely place to find them. Happy little orange scleractinian corals (Balanophyllia elegans) ridged with calcite were spotting the ledges on the underside of the sandstone. Unlike most corals, it lacks symbiotic dinoflagellates/algae in its tissues, so it relies exclusively on indiscriminately stinging and capturing small creatures and floatsum that passes by its many tentacles.
Dead Man’s Fingers- The best common name
The deep forest green of Codium fragilis (above) was a surprise to see in our region. This large, three-dimensional and dichotomizing green algae is one of a number of vastly different species that go by the common name “dead man’s fingers”. I’m beginning to think that different cultures have different ideas about the look of a dead man’s finger. These ones come straight out of a Dr. Seuss book, The flavourful shrub Decaisnea seems to dwell in a purplish hue on the spectrum, whilst those of those of the fungus Xylaria polymorha must represent advanced decomposition. This is an introduced species.
Clionid Sponges and Giant Rock Scallops
Sandra showed us two really good examples of shell degradation by the activity of a tiny little sponge, Cliona. On the surface of both the Giant Rock Scallop (pictured above left) and the Hornmouth Snail (above right), we could see that the original mineral surface of these molluscs has been bored and thinned by the activity of Cliona. Excavating mineralized shell surfaces micrometers at a time by secreting enzymes to dissolve and loosen particles, this species is responsible for a lot of breakdown in the intertidal. While the pace might be slow, the product is voluminous. Carbonate mud (tiny particles of calcite) is produced by this activity. In the fossil record, we can see beds meters and meters thick composed almost exclusively of particles loosed by the activity of the “boring” sponges. Sandra mentioned the sponge as a pest from the perspective of aquaculture operations as it degrades the quality of oysters.
Honeycomb weathering or Bioeroders?
A number of shoreline members commented on the similarity of large cylindrical-to-hemispherical excavations at in the sandstones if Willow Point to patterns seen in shoreline sandstones on Hornby, Saltspring, Galiano and any number of other places where these rocks are found in proximity to the sea. There was mumblings of the word _Tafoni_, a term used to describe a type of honeycomb weathering in our area. To clarify: Honeycomb weathering happens above the hightide line to sandstones that are exposed to salt spray from the sea.  The excavations that we were seeing in the sandstones at Willow Point were subtidal and were produced by the activity of invertebrates, most likely the sea urchins.
Species list. Modified barely from Sandra’s list based on what was seen and a few taxonomy changes. Please email me with corrections, additions and deletions. These are the things I remember seeing but between the 20 of us, there was likely more.
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Shoreline Outing Summary: Comox Peninsula Tip, June 5th. 2019

Hey Everyone,

We had 19 members and a little assistant show up at the very tip of the Comox peninsula. Some observations, follow ups and a species list can be found below.
A sluggish leopard
The spotted leopard dorid, Dialula odonoghuei was found affixed to the underside of a cobble. This distinctive nudibranch feeds on the sponges that encrust rocks in the middle-to-lower intertidal. How? Nudibranchs like their brethren the chitons and the gastropods have a specialized apparatus, the radula that can be used to rasp and file at their prey. In places, we saw extensive mats of a reddish-range encrusting sponge. The nudibranchs, chitons and snails are the ones hoovering up the algae and sponges that typically encrust these rocks. How can anyone determine what exactly is being eaten by the spotted leopard dorid? Patient observation by SCUBA-equipped biologists is one option, but another is to collect their fecal pellets and look at the collection of spicules, frustules, tests and the like to determine diet. This has been done for a southern relative of our local species, but never for Dialula odonoghuei. Any takers?
Chitons lined & mossy grazing with a furor that is insistent and bossy
There were a number of different chitons out along the shore. A number of them were members of the genus Mopalia, the mossy chitons, which has a fleshy girdle that encases a large portion of the mineralized valves or plates that are the distinguishing feature of the order Polyplacophora (many-plate-bearer). In Mopalia, the fleshy girdle, in addition to being extensive, is ornamented with large hairs and other odd bumps and spines. Locally, there are a number of species within this genus which vary from very hairy (Mopalia muscosa, the mossy chiton) to just vaguely so (Mopalia hindsii, Hinds’ chiton). Like most chitons, these species are deathly afraid of exposure in the light, thus their daytime hiding spots under the rocks. At night, they come out to graze. Tom Carefoot has put together a wonderful summary of research on the feeding behaviour of the genus Mopalia in our region. I pasted above a pie chart taken from his website (in-turn repurposed from a paper from the 1960s) that shows the gut contents on the Mossy Chiton, Mopalia muscosa. 
We saw a lovely juvenile lined chiton of the Genus Tonicella. This genus diverse in our area, but easy to recognize by its dramatic, bright colors and linear patterns. We saw an example of one of these small juvenile chiton rolling up such that its vulnerable undersides were abutting one another, with the plated surrounding the entire enrolled individual. This is presumably a protective response. The main predators of chitons in the intertidal are purple sea stars (Pisaster ochreus) and a potpouri or birds, fishes and otters. Hard to imagine this defense being of any help to the smaller individuals, though the birds might appreciate the more streamlined bolus it provides.
Northern Kelp Crab Fashion
Group member Barbara could not help but marvel over the giant living kelp crab that had a significant population of living barnacles on its carapace. So symmetrical was the arrangement that it could be mistaken for a thicket of regal hair. This kelp crab, Pugettia producta, is part of a grouping of crabs that includes a bunch of species known as “decorator crabs”. These crabs have a veritable menagerie of algae and invertebrates affixed to their carapace as a means of camouflage for themselves. The kelp crab is not known to decorate itself, but perhaps tolerates this kind of taxing load for the same reasons.
A good online guide to local-ish species
Kathleen was trying to make sense of some seaweeds and asked that this Central Coast Biodiversity website be sent out. The guide is good and visual and pretty comprehensive if not entirely specific to the central island. It makes a good reference Start with the species guide if you are trying to figure out the identification or something. You can usually follow it through and learn a little about the biology, ecology and distribution.
Species List
As mentioned, observations are now being kept in iNaturalist. You can see pictures and IDs (at varying levels of confidence and resolution) here. I am also pasting a species list below, though I was not able to keep track of everything yesterday on account of so much being seen and so many people seeing it. If you have additions, corrections or deletions from the list, let me know.
Name Common Name
Sarcodiotheca gaudichaudii
Succulent Seaweed
Lithothamnion Encrusting Coralline Algae
Hildenbrandia Encrusting Red Algae
Sargassum muticum Japanese Wireweed
Family Ceramiaceae Filemntous Red Algae
Chondrus Irish Moss
Ulva Sea Lettuces
Fucus distichus Rockweed
Leathesia marina Sea Cauliflower
Neorhodomela larix Black sea pine
Homaxinella amphispicula
Dead Man’s Fingers
Ophlitaspongia pennata
Red Rock Sponge
Strongylocentrotus Purple/Green Sea Urchin
Sea cucumbers
Cucumaria miniata Orange Sea Cucumber
Eupentacta quinquesemita
Stiff-footed Sea Cucumber
Sea stars
Dermasterias imbricata
Leather Star
Pisaster ochraceus Ochre Sea Star
Order Ophiurida Brittle Star (Daisy?)
Tresus Gaper
Chlamys Scallop
Diaulula odonoghuei Spotted Leopard Dorid
Aeolidia Shaggy Mouse Nudibranch
Anthopleura elegantissima
Aggregating Anemone
Metridium Plumose anemone
Urticina Red Anemone
Mopalia ciliata Hairy Chiton
Mopalia muscosa Mossy Chiton
Tonicella Lined Chiton
Serpula columbiana Tube worm
Order polycladida Flatworm
Family Terebellidae Spaghetti Worms
Nereis sp. Clam worm
Family Polynoidae Scale worm
Schizoporella No common name
Bugula californica Spiral bryozoan
Cancer productus Red Rock Crab
Petrolisthes eriomerus
Porcelain crab
Lophopanopeus bellus
Black claw crab
Pagarus grainosimanus
Grainy Hermit Crab
Hemigrapsus nudus Purple Shore Crab
Hemigrapsus oregonensis
Green Shore Crab
Pugettia producta Northern Kelp Crab
Oligocottus maculosus
Tidepool Sculpin
Gobiesox maeandricus
Northern Clingfish
Anoplarchus purpurescens
High Cockscomb
Porichthys notatus Plainfin Midshipmen
Family Cottidae Green Tidepool Sculpin
Galium aparine Catchweed Bedstraw
Spiraea Spiraea
Ambrosia chamissonis
Silver Beachweed
Zostera marina Eelgrass
See you soon,
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Outing: Botany, Harewood Plain, May 7th 2019

Greetings all,

On May 27th eight of us were treated to a brilliant display of later spring flowers at Harewood Plains in Nanaimo.  Our target was to see the red-listed Hosackia pinnata ( formerly Lotus pinnatus) – bog bird’s foot trefoil – and we were not disappointed. The clumps growing in seeps on the rock appear to have been thriving, no doubt largely the result of the work of the “Friends of Harewood Plains” and others.  The substantial fine of $50,000 for being  caught with an ATV or the like in the area appears to be successful as a deterrent .  (The deep gouges made by ATVs and dirt bikes were clearly old.)  Apart from the Hosackia there was a splendid array of plants flourishing in the seeps and shaded areas (whatever was exposed on the rock in the open was already tinder dry).  Outstanding were the banks of interspersed monkey-flower, sea blush,  Menzies larkspur and montia, as well as carpets of Scouler’s popcorn flower, springbank and tomcat clovers, sedums and saxifrages. There was still some lingering camas ( both species) as well as death-camas, native buttercups  and the list goes on.  So timing was good – the Hosackia was in full bloom, with just a few seed heads starting to form.

On the way north we turned onto the Nanoose peninsula to Moorecroft Park which was pleasantly cool among the large fir, cedar and arbutus.   The park includes seashore Garry Oak habitat, which was cordoned off for restoration.  The open headlands are supposed to have the native cactus ( Opuntia fragilis) but it eluded us.

As I indicated before I am now fully occupied with the Strathcona Wilderness Institute’s summer programs.  There will soon be lots of subalpine spring plants in Paradise Meadows.  The marsh-marigolds and kalmia are already in bloom, along with a few shooting stars and the delicate gold thread (Coptis asplenifolia).  There will be the SWI “season opener “ walk at Paradise  Meadows on Sunday June 16th , exact time TBA.  And for the energetic, on July 8th there will be a long day- hike (20 k round trip, with some wet snow) up to Croteau and Circlet Lakes on the Plateau to see the Avalanche lilies (Erythronium grandiflorum) .  The first of them are just coming into bloom at Croteau (see photo taken on May 29th).

Since many of you are very familiar with the range of flowering plants up at Paradise Meadows, please consider leading a walk for SWI in July or August.  The tradition of interpretive Nature walks in Strathcona Park has been associated with CVN members since SWI was founded in 1996;  there are a few of us already involved, but SWI always welcomes more botanists, birders etc  to help  visitors  appreciate the natural beauty of Strathcona Park.

Finally, if any of you want to organize an outing, let me know and I can circulate the specifics to the group.

Have a good summer,  Alison

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Shoreline Outing Reports: Oyster Bay, May 8th, 2019

Hey Everyone,

Betty Brooks led a great outing around Oyster Bay Shoreline Park last Wednesday. We got a bit of history, a bit of botany and a lot of interesting invertebrates, including an octopus. Species list to the best of my recollection and notes follow below. Thanks again to Betty for leading and sharing all her knowledge about the park and its biota.
Death of an Octopus
The group was surprised to see a giant octopus withering on the sand flat. There were hints of an active nervous system so we attempted to take it to cooler, open water. Lest this was a particularly slovenly octopus that practiced self-desiccation, it seems we caught it at the end of it’s life as there was no reviving it. This species can grow to more than 50 kg and up to 6 m wide. We saw what was presumably a juvenile octopus, weighing maybe 5kgs and measuring maybe 1m across in life.
Nudibranchs on Parade
The sea slugs are perhaps the most tropical element of our local shorelines. Their dramatic forms, colours and patterns can stand out. We saw three different nudibranchs: (1) The hum-drum Barnacle nudibranch, laying thousands of eggs on the bottom of a wood piling. (2) The colourful Taylor’s Sea Hare (right image), which grazes the eel grass. (3) Ian G. put in the extra time to identify the spectacular 3″ long Dendronotus iris (left image). He sent a great photo and noted that this nudibranch likes to graze on the green burrowing anenome (Anthopleura artemesia), which we also saw.
Species Seen (please email with corrections and additions)
Species List- Oyster Bay Shoreline Park, May 7th, 2019
Deltoid Balsamroot
Balsamorhiza deltoidea
Strawberry Fragaria sp.
Lomatium nudicaule
Red-stemmed spring beauty
Claytonia rubra
Eelgrass Zostera marina
Ribbon Kelp Alaria marginata
Bull kelp (growing off piling)
Nereocystis lutkeana
Sea Lettuce Ulva sp.
Porphyra Pophyra sp.
Rockweed Fucus distichus
Polysiphonia Polysiphonia sp.
Smithora naiadum
Serpula columbiana
Clamworm Nereis sp.
Jointed Tube Worm
Spaghetti worm
Thelapis sp.
Burrowing Anemone
Anthopleura artemesia
Plumose Anemone
Metridium sp.
Graceful rock crab
Metacarcinus gracilis
Northern Kelp Crab
Pugetta producta
Brittle star Amphiodia sp.
Eccentric Sand Dollars
Dendraster excentricus
Barnacle Nudibranch
Onchidoris bilamellata
Taylor’s Sea Hare
Phyllaplysia taylori
Dendronotus Dendronotus iris
Moonsnail Neverita lewisii
Olive Snail Olivella biplicata
Bubble Snail ?
Sand clam Macoma sp.
Gaper Tressus sp.
Eel grass limpet
Lottia alveus
Tidepool Sculpin
Oligocottus maculosus
Citharichthys sordidus
Posted in Marine & Shoreline, Outings | Comments Off on Shoreline Outing Reports: Oyster Bay, May 8th, 2019