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Posts Tagged ‘crabs’

As much as we enjoy wildlife, it’s seldom that we have an opportunity to hold live specimens in our hands.  Most wild creatures want to put as much distance between us and them as possible, and that’s how it should be.   However, opportunities to get up close and personal with wildlife are possible along Nova Scotia’s seashore in the intertidal zone.  Marine animals such as crabs and starfish are easily caught and respond well to gentle handling.

The starfish at left was found in the salt marsh.  Its underside reveals gel-like feelers that glisten in the sunlight as they move.  Live, juicy starfish are enjoyed by seagulls who can spot them underwater clinging to rocks.

Though a bit more difficult to catch, live crabs are very animated and deeper in color than the dried ones found higher up the beach.  Up close they look like little aliens.  They too are eaten by seagulls.

To those who are willing to get really up close, offshore waters offer even more wonders.

Live sand dollars are nothing like the bone dry tests we may sometimes find on the beach.  Their five point star design is just barely discernible beneath their deep purple fur-like covering of cilia.  Beds of these can be found by scuba divers in the subtidal zone, a wonder hidden from the view of beachcombers.  Sand dollars are preyed upon by starfish, snails and skates.

After handling these delicate marine creatures, it’s best to quickly place them back where they were found as they are unable to survive out of the water for long.  Such close encounters should be kept as brief as possible, unless of course you’re a seagull looking for a meal.

I’m hungry Dolores. Should we get fast food or see what’s slow in the marsh?

Photo credits:  Julie Perry

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It’s a busy morning in the marsh.  A sandpiper rushes across a stretch of sea-smoothed stones.  If only we could make such sweet piping sounds as we take off in flight to meet our deadlines, Mondays wouldn’t be so bad.

Crabs are sparring with one another just beneath the water’s surface.  The disagreement is over almost as quickly as it’s started, and they respectfully move to their territorial rocks.  Look at all those little fish.  Surely there’s enough for everyone to share.

Mergansers have already had breakfast and are determined to stay close and tight as they move quickly to their next destination.  There are only three young ones left in a brood that might have had eight or more to start with.  Things don’t always work out as planned, but it’s important to move forward and make the most of the day ahead.

A great blue heron wrestles with a long fish.  The bird twists its snake-like neck and turns its head upside down in order to get a better grip.  It could certainly teach us a thing or two on the value of being results-oriented.  Sensing that I am getting much too close for comfort, it takes off with its meal in flight.

The heron below also takes off as I draw near.  The sandpiper wading nearby doesn’t mind its ominous silhouette.  It knows that things usually aren’t as scary and threatening as they might appear at first.

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

~ Wendell Berry

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Beyond Nova Scotia’s ocean shore lies the world of inner space.  This marvelous world is seen by few except divers, who brave our cold waters for just a glimpse of its wildlife inhabitants.  The rest of us only see evidence of undersea life when it is washed ashore or edible forms appear on our dinnerplate.  Yet, how far these experiences remove us from the pulse of life beneath the surface of the waves.

The best way to observe a fish is to become a fish.

~ Jacques Cousteau

The spiny sculpin, shown at top, is an odd-looking fish that can survive out of water for hours at a time as long as it stays wet.  Another bottom dweller is the flounder shown below.  Amazingly, one of the flounder’s eyes gradually drifts from one side of its body to the other.  The body of the fish eventually turns on its side, where both of its eyes come to rest on ‘top.’ 

 

Crustaceans, such as this spider crab, are also found on the sea floor, scavenging for food.

Hermit crabs search the sea floor for empty shells that they may use to protect their vulnerable bodies from predators.  They don’t possess the hard exoskeleton common to most true crabs.

The seafood section in Nova Scotia’s grocery stores often hold live lobsters in a tank.  The trapped  lobster, shown above, seems destined for such a place.  Like many crustaceans, it possesses the magical ability to regrow its asymmetrical claws.

Among the most attractive creatures to be found off our coasts are the carnivorous sea anemones, which look deceptively like plants.  

 

Many thanks to Wayne Joy and my son Simon Bell for granting permission to share these beautiful photos taken on a recent dive.  Both Wayne and Simon are members of the Shearwater Scuba Club.

Images copyright Wayne T. Joy / Simon Bell.

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rock crab

Dismembered crab carcasses litter the trail that runs through the salt marsh.  Seagulls fly onto the trail to crack open and eat crabs found in the marsh.  Although Rock Crabs are most common, Green Crabs are also on the seagulls’ menu.   Sometimes cracked Northern Moon Snail shells can be found as well, remnants of a tasty breakfast.

green crab1

Although Rock Crabs can run sideways at great speed, and are masterful at wedging themselves between the rocks along the shore, they are still easily caught by the seagulls.  These crabs are most active at night. 

rock crab on sand

Crabs are Decapods, having five pairs of legs.  Their abdomens are small and curled under their bodies.  They share the lobsters’ marvelous ability to regenerate legs, claws, eyes or antennae.  They are predators and scavengers, eating dead creatures found on the bottom of the marsh and sea.  Common prey are starfish, sea urchins and other crabs.  Crab shells fade in the sunlight, becoming a light orange color over time.

Neither Green nor Rock Crabs are consumed by people in Nova Scotia.  Snow Crabs, more common in Cape Breton, are the type usually eaten here. 

rock crab underside

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