Thursday, March 29, 2012

salps ~ 03/29/12 ~ Coast Guard Pier

salps
Salpa spp.
Family Salpidae

posted 05/07/12 - The strangest creatures get washed into the area between the Monterey Coast Guard Pier/breakwater and the boating gas station near the Monterey Bay Boatworks. I was told by one of the guys on a large fishing vessel that these were jellyfish eggs. I don't know. There seemed to be 3 different types all at least 2-7" in length: round-oblong with reddish-orange circles, chains of smaller ones with the same reddish-orange circles, and a long fin-like creature with purple lips. All seemed to have moving parts that acted like mouths. Like many jellies that get caught in this area, they were only here for one day, maybe in conjunction with the tide. Can you ID?

ps 05/09/12 - Thanks to the generous comments below, I was able to place a general ID on what I originally posted as unknown jelly-like animals. As I looked up information, I added additional photos to show the variety I found. Plus, I'm moving the purple-lipped Carinaria sp. to its own new post. Most online pictures and information were done by scuba divers, so it's possible that salps are unusual to find close to the surface and near the shore, even though they're reportedly quite common in the ocean. There were so many that it wasn't too difficult to take pictures. The hardest part was trying to reduce the glare over the water, so I laid flat on my belly leaning over the docks to snap pictures in the shadows. My best guess is that all the ones shown here belong to the family Salpidae, which is a type of tunicate. To be honest, I don't remember ever hearing of these animals before.

As you can see, not all of them are pointy on both ends, so I do not believe all of them are Salpa fusiformis. There were also one-ended points, chains (clones which become sequential hermaphrodites), round with fringed edges, and large tubulars with wide openings on both ends. Notice each has a small compact round, reddish-orange gut, which apparently helps distinguish Salpa from several other Salpidae, such as Helicosalpa virgula? I had difficulty finding specific information, so I wonder if some of these might be Iasis spp. or Weelia spp. My favorite site for these animals is Dave Wrobel's The JelliesZone. And, yes, salps are chordates, so they're more closely related to us than to jellyfish. Wild! As of 2 weeks ago, salps made the news because there were such massive numbers that they clogged an intake screen at the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, which is a couple hundred miles southeast of Monterey near MontaƱa de Oro.

9 comments:

John W. Wall said...

I don't know what they are, but my guess would have been eggs. Really cool find!

21stcenturynaturalists said...

Hi Katie, really great pictures! I think these guys are tunicates, possibly of the free floating family Salpidae.

GretchenJoanna said...

It's fantastic that you got these pictures!

The Field of Gold said...

Nothing better than poking around on the oceanside. Beach of Rocks. I love where we are but it's about as far (200 kilometers) from the sea as you can get on this island.

DavidDavid said...

Salps maybe...google: Monterey
Bay Salps
:)...posted without looking at other comments!...now I'll go look...

Martin said...

Yes, Salpa. The top photo shows the individual salps. They have a cylindrical body which can be squeezed to provide propulsion. If they have a nice pointy bit at each end then they may be Salpa fusiformis, but I don't know what species occur off Monteray.
The middle photo shows a chain of these individuals joined together which is how they normally live in the ocean.

Martin Lilley.

PhD on Jellyfish in the UK, 2010

Neil Kelley said...

Yep, another vote for salps. I think Martin is right on with Salpa fusiformis. The two different morphologies (solitary and colonial) represent alternating reproductive and nonreproductive generations (sexual solitary and asexual colonial) akin to the life cycle of most plants (and some other animals). Hard to believe that these chordates are close cousins of ours in the grand scheme of things!

Your other critter, the "long fin-like creature with purple lips" is some sort of heteropod, a pelagic predatory gastropod that eats salps. If you look closely you can see the rudimentary coiled shell. Based on the short description in Underwater California I'm going to guess this might be Carinaria.

Katie (Nature ID) said...

Wow! I had to find new online ID resources for information on these animals. I've added pictures and postscripted the above. Plus, I moved the snail to a new post. This was a fun one to try to ID. Thank you for your help!

Katie (Nature ID) said...

Oops, here's a link that hopefully works: snail to a new post