Wednesday, February 24, 2010

California sea lion
Zalophus californianus

Sea lions are so much cuter when they're smaller. Sigh, yes, my parents took us to SeaWorld San Diego as kids and to this day I still view sea lions as trainable circus curiosities with beach balls on their noses, something like (gag!) dancing elephants, women with beards, or Siamese twins, hence my general disinterest in these animals.

Thanks to this creagus site, I just learned the larger sea lions I often see along the Coast Guard Pier may be Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus)... and here I thought they were simply older and grumpier versions of the smaller boys. Additionally, I've always thought we had sea lions in Monterey year round, and some years, like last year towards the end of May, the local population explodes. I can usually smell the extra sea lions well before I hear or see them.

I should look into learning more about our local sea lions, particularly in regard to seasonal fluctuations considering several reputable online sites claim both species are mainly in Monterey during the fall and winter, with some in the spring and summer. I have found the opposite is true. I have photo evidence that large groups are here at the end of May and well into the summer, so I beg to differ with the experts. Hmm?

bat star ~ 02/24/10 ~ Coast Guard Pier

bat star
Patiria miniata

It's always fun to see a brightly colored sea star.

Maybe it shows my age, but I still want to call it a starfish. I wrote my first term paper in the 5th grade on starfish, "Echinoderms: Eating Out." I liked the big fancy name echinoderm and, admittedly, largely copied my paper verbatim out of our home set of the World Book Encyclopedia - apologies, Mrs. Wilson!

A friend of mine, who volunteers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, tells me Asteroidea are not fish and in order to avoid confusion for children, the MBA would prefer for the public to call them sea stars. I point out that they're not stars, either. The starfish/sea star argument has become a bit of a running joke between us.

Come on! Starfish is one word right? If one follows the protocol of common names that entomologists use, then it's obvious it's not a true fish. For example, a dragonfly (Odonata) is not a true fly, but a house fly (Diptera) is. Do you see the difference? I'm not sure where I picked up this tidbit of info, but here's how I understand it: when it's two words, then the last noun accurately describes the thing in question; when it's one word, then it is not the thing stated. Does this make sense? Here are other examples of one-word nots: butterfly (Lepidoptera, not Diptera), ladybug (Coleoptera, not Hemiptera), caddisfly (Trichoptera, not Diptera), sawfly (Hymenoptera, not Diptera), mealybug (Homoptera, not Hemiptera). I maintain starfish is a perfectly acceptable common name. Phew! I'm done with my rant for the day.

ps 11/02/10 - For a better written post on this same topic (not starfish), see Bug Girl's post.

pss 03/14/12 - For whatever reason it's validating to see other bloggers blog about this same issue. See Jim Johnson of Northwest Dragonflier for another better written explanation.

lined shore crab ~ 02/24/10 ~ Coast Guard Pier

lined shore crab
Pachygrapsus crassipes

I always wondered what these crabs were. They're fun to watch as they froth foam from their mouths with the bigger pincher. It really has helped me to look these things up. I believe that's a common sea star (Asterias forbesi) in the lower left of the second pic.
Catoptrophorus semipalmatus

This fellow looks a little too slender compared to other willets I think I've seen, so I'm not positive about the ID. I'll admit my previous IDs for willets were based on seeing the obvious "black and white flashing wings" when they took flight. What do you think?
magnolia tree in Memory Garden

I can't believe it's been a whole month since the first flower to this. I always thought the blooms were quicker than this.