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Posts Tagged ‘stars’

Canada Day began this morning with a clear moon in a sky filled with blue.  By the time I reached Cow Bay Road, the sun was already rising over Lawrencetown. 

Once I arrived at Rainbow Haven, grey clouds were beginning to crowd out some of the blue sky.  Along with the water, they reflected the dawn beautifully.

The tide was very low, so the blue mussel bed on the beach was exposed.  From a distance, the bed looks like just a large patch of gravel on the sand, but is actually teaming with life.

Crabs, barnacles, periwinkles, dogwhelks, sea stars, blue mussels and moon snails all reside there.  They hide between and beneath the smoothly worn stones, while lying in wait for their prey or to avoid becoming prey themselves.  Rock crabs are especially talented at wedging themselves in the crevices with only their claws exposed.

Several small sea stars were present in the tidepools this morning.  They seem to be more common this year, both here and farther back in the marsh.   These purple starfish prey on the blue mussels by prying them open and inserting their stomachs inside the shells in order to feast on the contents directly.  Who would suspect these elegant creatures to have such gruesome feeding habits?

Beautiful weather on Canada Day always attracts crowds of sun seekers to Rainbow Haven beach.  Although the afternoon sun does put a sparkle on the sand and water, seeing the early morning sun at the shore puts a sparkle on my whole day. 

Happy Canada Day!

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queen annes lace

Not all stars twinkle in the sky.  Some glisten on the shore or wink up at us from the grass beneath our feet.  Their shape is often best appreciated from above.  However, I drew the Queen Anne’s Lace flower, shown at top, from the perspective of an ant that might be looking up towards the sky from a position on the stem.

ALBell echinodermsStar shapes consist of five or more points radiating from a centre.

These star polygons are given different names depending on how many points they have.  For example, a pentagram has five points while an octagram has eight. 

Many of these star shapes hold spiritual significance.  Pentagrams are considered magical and often used in occult practices.  The Star of David and the Seal of Solomon are both hexagrams, star polygons with six points. 

On land, the variety of star shaped flowers is endless.  In the water, echinoderms are marine animals that reveal radial symmetry in some part of their design at the adult stage.  Sea urchins, sand dollars and starfish are echinoderms that often wash up on Nova Scotia’s shores. 

Sometimes, the star structure of the polygon is not as obvious, as is the case with the hexagonal chambers of bees.  Like other shapes in nature, such as the circle, the branch, the spiral and the meander, these tiny hexagons form exquisite patterns and are the building blocks for larger things, in this case, the honeycomb. 

Over the past five Saturdays, I’ve examined five different shapes found frequently in nature as a lead-in to a Summer Scavenger Hunt.  Next Saturday on June 20th, Midsummer’s Eve, I’ll provide final details of the hunt.  Wherever you make your home on the planet, whether you live in the city or in the country, I hope you’ll consider taking part.

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Echinoderms
Echinoderms

The following article was written for the December 2008 issue of The Beacon:

 

At this time of year, it seems that stars are beginning to show up everywhere. They’re seen in ice crystals, holiday decorations, wrapping paper, nativity scenes, Christmas treetops and the sparkling eyes of children.  In local wildlife, the star shape can also be found on our beaches in the forms of Echinoderms, sea creatures that are distinguished by a 5-part radial symmetry:

 

A live Sea Urchin is covered with spines which hide the star shape that is only revealed upon its death, at which time the spines become dry and fall off.  These urchins are greatly enjoyed by seagulls at low tide.  Although they’re commonly found on the shore, I’ve also found urchin shells in the woods where they’ve been dropped from the sky by gulls hoping to crack them open on rocks.

 

Starfish are known for their amazing ability to grow back an appendage should it be lost.  There is an eye spot at the tip of each arm so that the Starfish can see ahead regardless of which arm is leading its direction.  The mouth is located beneath its central disc.  A carnivore, the Starfish will use its strong arms to open mussel or clam shells.  Once the shell is opened, the starfish pushes its stomach through its mouth right into the bivalve it is eating.

 

The Sand Dollars found on our local beaches are of the Sea Biscuit variety.  While living, they are covered with thousands of soft brown hairs.  These hairs fall off and the shell is bleached white by the sun once the Sand Dollar dies and is washed ashore.  Although the top of the Sand Dollar has a flower shape on it that looks like a Christmas Poinsettia, a look at its underside will reveal a delicate yet distinct 5-point star shape.

 

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