Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New Baby Pacific Giant Octopus!

Exciting News!

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center just received a baby Pacific Giant Octopus from the SPU lab at Fort Casey. She is currently a little bigger than a golf ball and settling into her new habitat quite nicely. In fact, posted below is a video of her catching a shore crab in her new tank!

The Pacific Giant Octopus (Enteroctopus dolfleini) is one of the largest octopi in the world, growing over 9 meters in length and weighing over 45kg at full maturity. Like vertebrates, octopi have both long and short term memories. They are also very smart and may learn to solve problems (like getting food out of a closed jar) by trial and error, experience, and perhaps by observational learning. Once the problem is solved they are able to solve it and other similar problems repeatedly. Another fascinating fact about octopi (and Cephalopods) is their ability to change color. Special pigment cells (chromatophores) in the skin are activated and consist of three bags containing different colors that can be adjusted individually, to change the octopus to its desired color pattern. Coloration often reflects the mood of the octopus but it also greatly used for camouflaging with its environment.

Come by the PTMSC and see her! Though she may be a little shy.

Your friendly Marine Scientist and PTMSC Fall Intern,
Jonathan Robinson

Information found from:

Friday, September 18, 2009

Crab Molt in Action

Yesterday during homecrew one of our volunteers Betty noticed a red rock crab was molting. Molting is an amazing process that enables a crab to grow larger. The molting crab leaves behind an exact copy of it's itself including the eyes gills and even the stomach lining. To molt the crab backs out through a split along the rear edge of its carapace (the large flat surface on it's back). Once out of it's old 'shell' the crab's body is very soft and it puffs up with water increasing it's size.
Below are pictures showing the molting process:

The split at the back of the carapace has just begun.

A little farther along.

The crab now has its legs out.

One claw has come out.

Almost there. . .

It is finally free! The legs were so soft at this point, they were buckling under the weight of the body!

Monday, September 14, 2009

New animal on display at the Wooden Boat Festival

While collecting animals in the vicinity of the Northwest Maritime Center pier and the Point Hudson jetty for a live demonstration of sea life for the festival attendees this past Saturday, we found a new animal none of our team had ever seen before - a spotted aglajid. It was so exciting...we were jazzed.

It's not necessarily a rare find, just a first for us. But, given that we've been prowling around for nearshore marine animals for over 25 years & today's sighting was a first, that says something! So here are some reasons this animal might be hard to find...

First, it's only about an inch long.
Second, it lives subtidally so it's likely only a diver or snorkeler would see it.
Third, it blends in very well with drift algae which in our case was all over our cruising area.
Fourth & last, this animal was under huge blades of lamanaria (a brown seaweed) that had drifted in. Volunteer diver, Jeff Gallant, just happened to be sweeping the seaweed aside looking underneath when he made this find.

So what is a spotted aglajid? It's closely related to nudibranchs (sea slugs) and snails. We thought it was a nudibranch at first, but then at closer look, Cheqa (our teen whiz) pronounced that it was most closely related to the bubble shell group. It has no tentacles (rhinophores) and it has an internal shell that is greatly reduced.

Here's a picture taken by former staffer Keith Brkich.

The crowd gathered around enjoying all our other catches - including crabs, sea stars, moon snail, sea jellies, hooded nudibranches and more, was a bit surprised by our excitement over the teeny brown blob...but that's understandable. It takes a while to get excited by this type of rarity. Just give them time & a visits to the Port Townsend Marine Science Center exhibits....they'll get the bug!

At the end of our live display we took all the animals back to where we found them.

Thanks to the team working at the Wooden Boat Festival

Collecting: Jeff Gallant, Liz Reutlinger & Anne Murphy
Underwater & out of water photography: Keith Brkich
On-shore educators: Chrissy McLean, Karen de Lorenzo & Cheqa Rodgers

Anne Murphy
Executive Director

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Thank you AmeriCorps team!

Brenda, Lucy, Liza and Allie

August is always a hard month for us here at PTMSC because we have to say goodbye to our AmeriCorps members. We are so grateful to have had this amazing team here this year--they are smart, funny and friendly people who were great to work with. This team supported our continuing work in K-12 education, summer camps, public exhibits, teacher training, citizen science, plastic pollution monitoring and outreach, and kick started our new Orca Project. We couldn't do what we do without our AmeriCorps members!

Nothing says thank you like your picture on a cake!