Tuesday, April 9, 2013 Beach treasures

Seward Sporadic Beach Report

Interesting find at Lowell Point Beach today, the front half of a Longnose Skate, Raja rhina. This is a poorly understood species that ranges from southeastern Bering Sea south to California. What an amazing, streamlined nose! The skin was like sandpaper, but only rough in one direction. The mouth, on the underside of the body, had rows of tiny teeth. I wonder what happened to this cartilaginous fish?

We also found several "Mermaid's Purses" which are the egg cases of skates.
They looked gold-plated on the smooth and lustrous underside. The fibrous upper side was full of camouflage to hide the developing skate. The curved hook at each corner helped attach the egg case to algae or the ocean floor. As the baby skate got ready to emerge, a hole opened at the tip of each hook, allowing seawater to flow through and let the baby get accustomed to the chemistry of salt water. Finally, a long seam opened at one end of the case and the baby slipped out, unfurled its long wings and flew off into its undersea universe.

It seemed like these cases were empty, so it could be spring for baby skates.

Another fascinating beach find was a marine isopod, a jointed crustacean with large compound eyes and many jointed legs. It looked prehistoric, and indeed it is. Sprinkled down the beach were a few Euphausids, also called Krill, food for whales in larger quantities, and birds. They seem to wash up on our local beaches around the last part of March and first part of April. When fresh, they taste like shrimp.

It's just incredible what lives under the sea, so close to our world, and yet so mysterious, unknown, and inaccessible.

Happy beach combing!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Beach Report Reporter 

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