Tuesday, September 28, 2010

beach hopper ~ 09/28/10 ~ Asilomar

beach hopper / sand flea
Megalorchestia sp. (formerly Orchestoidea sp.)

Oy! This was a very difficult animal for me to nail down to a specific ID for several reasons. I didn't grow up here on the coast, so most marine life is still foreign to me. Hey, when you don't know, you simply don't know. If you had asked me before I started this blog, I would have shrugged off this cute, jumping critter as an immature sand crab (in the order Decapoda), which btw are also sometimes known as beach hoppers even though they don't hop. Haha, this is how little I know!

Thanks to one of Wanderin' Weeta's posts, I was reminded of the order of amphipods and figured out it's in the family Talitridae. I've linked to SIMoN in the scientific name above (jump to the Kelp and Seaweed section for the best information); while it's the best marine ID site I've found, it has its share of typos. The genus Megalorchestia (not Megla... as SIMoN states) was formerly known as Orchestoidea, not to mention the common names have a variety of spellings online.

My best guess for ID is Megalorchestia californiana or M. corniculata. I even pulled out the lovely book Light's Manual sent to me by a fellow blogger Steve at Blue Jay Barrens and went through the keys. While the antenna 2 do not reach the middle of the body, nor are rosy colored, the dorsal pigmentation (see in pic 1 above) doesn't match any of the plates. There were no discrete spots on the sides of the body, so these are my two best guesses out of only a handful of Megalorchestia species.

In all my searching, I did find this great sandy beach life site. Based on its information, the hole in the sand shown in my last pic should be an exit hole. The one in my hand is about the largest one I spotted, as most were various sizes. They seemed to have an uncanny knack for hopping directly to the kelp piles. Oh, and despite online information saying these beach hoppers are best found at night or in the early morning, I found massive numbers around the kelp a little after 5:00pm. Ha!

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