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


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