Thursday, October 9, 2014

Mudflat Moon Snail Mania

No lab is anticipated more than the mudflats lab I lead each fall.  For some, the anticipation is tinged with dread, as they envision themselves dirty and cold and wet, pulling up unrecognizable worms.  For others, it's all an adventure to be enjoyed.  For me, it's the best lab of the season -- one where we always encounter new habitats and organisms.  This is when my appreciation of a student increases exponentially when I see her kneeling in the mud, quietly picking through the algae looking for organisms.  When we are children again, turning over rocks and digging up thick muck.  Squealing with delight over our finds.  And yes, getting dirty.  For some people, really dirty.  You can't explore a mudflat without falling over once in a while.

I give two excellent prizes for this lab:  One for the muddiest person,  one for the person who finds the coolest thing.  This year we had two candidates for muddiest person, but making the choice for coolest find will be tough -- in that we found more moon snails than we've ever found, and many other amazing things -- rock gunnels, tiny sipunculids (peanut worms!), nemertians (ferocious wrom predators), crabs the color of shells, etc. etc.  It'll be a tough decision . . . .

I could go with the obvious choice, moon snails.  They are my favorite.  But there were so many of them -- exponentially more than any other trip -- that is seems difficult to say they are particularly rare this year.  How many did we find?  This many:

I love hearing a student say "What's this?  OH MY GOSH IT'S HUGE!"

Steve Dudgeon came along and shared his considerable knowledge.

Passing one around to amaze ourselves.

This is an odd place to find two -- count 'em two -- moon snails.  Rocks?  Odd.

Brave student!

Look at that foot!

A little one!

Our cup runneth over.

She's thinking "What the . . . ?"

This is more commonly where I find them!

Sarah Kingston found this hard-shell clam with a drill hole from a moon snail!

Well, after all those moon snails, everything else might just be icing on the cake.  But really, all this stuff is amazing in and of itself.  Take a look:

Green crabs in the most beautiful shell hash colors.  What camouflage!

Loads of Mercenaria!  Quahogs or hard shell clams.

I do love a rock gunnel!

Two is even better!

Whoa!  Lady Asian shorecrab.

Peanut worms.  A big one and a baby.  Don't you dare say "ew".

Annie's not freaked out.  Why should you be?
All this bounty wasn't easily won.  We got a little stuck in the mud.  That's half the fun.

Boot stuck?  Pull it out with your hands!

Oh, I hate it when they fall.  I know what it's like.

This is why the mudflats are poorly studied.

Using a bucket for help.  Smart.

Oh, this is a serious case of mud.  Annie's in the running for a prize!
I have to thank my wonderful students letting me drag them along on my adventures.  They think I'm doing it for them!  Ha.  Seriously, they pay me for this?

1 comment :

  1. A great adventure but those green crabs..not good for our shellfish industry, eh?