Just inches from the sandy beach, the rocky shoreline is bursting with life. The narrow, rocky area that is exposed during periods of low tide is the intertidal zone. Take a look – it’s covered with tide pools. The plants and animals that survive here are submerged during high tide, exposed to sun and wind during low tide, and constantly battered by waves. Fish try to eat these species when underwater, and birds prey on them when exposed. On the rocky shoreline, only the strong survive. But these creatures are specially adapted to life on the rocks. California mussels grow in large mounds, anchored against the surf by tough strands. The aggregating anemone covers its soft body with bits of shells and pebbles. This provides camouflage and sun protection during low tide. When underwater, it can use its crown of stinging tentacles to stun, and then engulf, its prey. Look for brown kelp beds floating just offshore. This algae grows up to 100 feet tall in underwater “forests”. Root-like structures called “holdfasts” grip the rocks on the ocean floor. Air-filled bulbs keep the long, leaf-like blades floating near the surface so they can collect energy from the sun. Kelp contains algin, used to thicken products from ice cream to hand lotion.
Enjoy exploring the tide pools, but remember: The intertidal area is a protected state marine reserve. It’s against the law to fish or to disturb or remove any rocks, marine plants or tide pool animals.
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