"T" is for Tidepools at the Beach

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Visitor's ABC's

By John Hirtle, Beach News Staff

Beach News, Thursday, August 18, 2005

[The following article is courtesy of Beach News]
Each year, the Beach News is proud to feature an unique ongoing series of articles concerning interesting facts about the region's places and history. This year, we will be doing a virtual visitor's ABCs of the Seacoast region.
- You won't know until you take a look.

[Beach News Photo by Hirtle]

Most beaches are long, flat and sandy, suitable for tanning, building sandcastles and little else. Most marine creatures would be pounded away by the waves if they dared to spend any time along the sands.

To find sea creatures, close to shore, you need to look for the rocks, and the sheltered tidepools that often form around them. Small sea creatures like to make their homes in tidepools so they won’t be washed away by the waves at high tide, and they won’t dry out at low tide. Tidepools also help them from being eaten.

To find a 'good’ tidepool, look for rocks which have plants near them. These aren’t the sort of plants you find in your garden, but sea plants. For instance, the green slime you find on rocks is made up of thousands of tiny plants called algae. Seaweed that looks like long stringy mats of carpet with little balloons is called brown rockweed. The balloons help the rockweed float, and stay near the surface at high tide where they can get sunlight. If you’re lucky, you might find a long brownish black strip of seaweed tangled on the sands. This is called kelp, another sort of seaweed that grows in the deepest tidepools and further offshore. Another reddish seaweed you might find is called Irish moss -- a most important seaweed, since it was once used to help thicken up ice cream.

All of these plants you see help form the bottom of the food chain in the tidepools. Without them, there wouldn’t be any sea creatures.

The easiest creatures to find near tidepools are barnacles, which grow like a white carpet of cones across the black rocks, where they spend their entire life. At low tide, when they are high and dry, they close their tiny shells up to stay wet and safe inside. But as the tides rise and fall, you can watch their tiny feathery limbs zipping in and out of their shells as they dine on nutrients in the water. Round shelled snails, also known as brown periwinkles, are easy to find stuck to the rocks, or slowly coasting across the bottom of a tidepool where they eat algae. They are shy creatures, but if you hold them in your hand, and hum them a tune, they might peek out of their shells at you. The white cone-shelled snails are called whelks. They like to eat other snails.

Seaweed also provides homes for sea creatures as well as food. You might find tiny green crabs hiding in the rockweed waiting to snap up something to eat. Starfish, which look like stars, and sea urchins, which look like pincushions, also hide in the seaweed as well. In deeper tidepools you might even find little fish or baby lobsters.

All of these creatures will try to scurry to cover once you spy them, since a seagull would like to make a quick meal out of any one of them.

When you visit any tide pool, keep in mind you are a visitor, and these creatures live there all year long. Please don’t take them home, or leave them high and dry out of the water.

If you’ve missed out on exploring a tidepool, because of high tide, or poor weather, never fear -- the Seacoast Science Center at Odiorne Point State Park on Route 1A in Rye has an indoor touching tank which is open and ready to be explored all year long.

"T" is also for:
Tastee Towerless, a great place for pizza, meals, and snacks galore!
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