AMAZING HAPPENINGS...Where do I begin? This was a week of small, but miraculous happenings. There was Hermit Crab humor when one of those funny creatures got confused and backed into a snail shell's hole instead of its natural opening. We witnessed moonsnail misery when one of the Starfish in my holding bucket clamped on to a small moonsnail and had it for lunch. And, yippee! I saw my first Monarch butterfly for they are back in Maine!
But let's back up to the Sanddune
Beach Hunt for more amazing observations. As we found the sand
plowing Moonsnails, we also pulled up a few of their sand collars
with eggs. One large collar was loaded with small snails called
Basket Whelks. They were dining
on the eggs! How about that - snails eating snail eggs. These
small snails are scavengers and will finish off a dead crab in
jig time. They are also the ones that make those curious, squiggly
trails on sand when left by the tide.
The Hermit Crab humor came as a result of a crab that inadvertently walked out of its shell-home. In its excitement to reconnect with new housing, it backed into the wrong hole as shown here. He eventually got straightened out, but to watch these Hermit Crab antics is a special treat, though one should never pull a hermit out of its shell. He is hooked in place, and would break in half. ;-(
Another amazing sea adventure for us to witness was on the Yankee. We were sorting the animals while cruising out the harbor when lo and behold, we discovered a Starfish was eating a Moonsnail! This is a simple matter for the starfish who sucks its tube feet on the snail opening to hold it in place. Then, it opens its mouth and burps out its stomach and proceeds to digest the hapless moonsnail. We saw where the door of the snail (the operculum) was removed to expose snail meat. Here you see the start of a starfish dining on a small moonsnail. You are looking at the under side of the starfish. The mouth is in the center and the operculum is separate from the hapless snail.
One final discovery involved an unusual snail that I firmly believe is an Asian Shore Crab. These were first reported turning up in our waters after traveling to our shore via a ship (uninvited). This is a first for me, and I will share it with you here. The striped legs are distinctive, but check the shape of the carapace and the three prongs on the outer edges. The claws are quite full and round which isn't a characteristic of our native crabs. There was an alert a few years ago about the presence of these crabs and what it might mean to our mix of sea creatures. Would it take over, like the Green Crabs? How would it impact the natural diversity of our marine animals. I have forwarded pictures to the Bigelow Marine Laboratory for positive identification and will keep you informed.
Incidentally, here is a followup on the beaver that was raising havoc with my brother's wetlands. The trapper finally caught the animal (alive) and was able to move it. It took two months of setting the trap and cleaning out the culvert which was plugged every night by the diligent beaver. The trick in catching the beaver was locating a hole where the animal had set up housekeeping while trying to make a pond. He must have grown careless as he returned to his hole after a night of cutting and damming the small waterway. The trapper thought it was about 3 years old and lived alone. No more damming has occurred since the capture. One more amazing creature among us. 8/6/04 Diligent Ronnie