As I suspected, the little Dendronotus veligers didn’t last very long. On Wednesday the very last survivors had kicked the proverbial bucket. All that was left in the jar was some debris and scum from leftover food. They lasted nine days post-hatching, which is about the norm for me when I’ve tried to raise nudibranch larvae. Something just happens (or doesn’t happen) around Day 10 and they all crash after a week or so of apparently vigorous life. Someday I may figure out what’s going on. In the meantime, RIP, little guys.
On the more fun side of marine biology, there’s a new exhibit at the Seymour Center that is extremely cool. Someone brought in a buoy that had been out in the ocean for a long time. It’s a perfect example of a fouling community.
People who have boats or just spend time in marinas know about fouling communities. They’re all the stuff that gets scraped off the bottoms of boats. It’s also the same stuff that grows on pilings and the underside of floating docks. In this case the term “fouling” refers to early recruiting animals and algae that grow quickly to monopolize space. Many of the fouling species seen in harbors are invasive non-natives.
A few years ago I hung a box of slides off one of the docks at the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor and left them there for several months to see what would grow. Here’s what recruited and grew on a single slide measuring about 5×7.5 cm:
As you can see, it’s a very colorful world down there! The brightest red curly stuff is an introduced species of bryozoan called Watersipora. It is a fast grower and can overtake the other stuff and form large clumps. It grows as an encrusting sheet over surfaces, but when two sheets make contact they grow up each other and form those curly upright bits. To model how this works, hold your hands in front of you, palms down, with the fingers facing each other. Push your hands together until your fingertips meet, then continue to move them towards each other. What happens is that your hands flex and your finger tips get moved upwards until your palms come together in a praying position. If your hands were encrusting sheets of bryozoan colonies, that’s how you’d get those curly pieces.
Anyway, the buoy on display at the Seymour Center has a lot of large barnacles. The barnacles have been actively feeding and molting since they arrived last week. They are definitely the most animated critters growing on the buoy, as shown here:
Barnacles are crustaceans that lie on their backs entirely encased in hard shells glued to other surfaces. They feed by extending their thoracic appendages and sweeping them through the water to capture detritus and plankton. It’s a strange way to make a living, but it does work.