How to Visit a Sea Slug at Home

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July 14th will be a special day for us humans to get together with our seashore neighbors in their sandy and cobbly living rooms.  There are hundreds of animals on Pt. Robinson beach waiting to welcome us – are we ready to be good guests?

So what is the proper etiquette when visiting a sea slug, a crab or a fish in its home?  How do we politely greet an anemone or a moon snail?

The first and most important thing to remember is that, compared to our seashore neighbors, we are BIG!  So we walk carefully, turn rocks over gently and touch the tiny little crabs, flatworms and sea snails with wet fingers – that’s the proper handshake!  If we walk on bare sand we can be sure we are not crushing anybody and we only walk up to the edge of the eel grass beds and gently part the grass with our fingers to see the hundreds of little creatures and thousands of tiny eggs that are hidden and protected there from the sun and hungry seagulls.

Remember – we are visiting our little neighbors at a time that is actually pretty tough for them.  At low tide they are out of their element: the water has left them high and dry and they are feeling a little stressed, a little exposed and probably a little sensitive.  But these amazing animals have evolved not just to survive but to thrive in this environment!  Take our friend the moon snail.   The tide goes out and leaves her on the beach two times every day!  Yet she is able to glide under the sand, where she finds enough clams and mussels to eat and is able to avoid being eaten by sea gulls for long enough to have thousands of babies in her lifetime.  So when we see her on the beach we should leave her there and if we want to help we can pour a little cool water over her to help her skin stay hydrated and healthy.

Should we pick up animals we find on the beach?  Most of the time we should let them be and take the time to get down close, touch them gently with wet fingers and just watch them for a while.  This is a good way to enjoy the beauty of an animal and you will carry the memory of that creature away with you as you would remember a friend.  And your friend will be much happier and healthier being left in their home so that they can continue on their way when the water returns.

But what about the animals we can’t see?  Looking out over the cobbles and boulders on the north side of the Point it may not look like there are any animals at all!  But if we carefully venture out into their habitat and begin gently lifting up those cobbles and looking under the boulders we will find them waiting there – tiny crabs, piddock clams, dogwinkles, flatworms, anemones, bright orange sea cucumbers, periwinkles and, if you are very lucky, you might see the little green sea urchins.  In fact, there are so many animals we could never count them all!

So come down to Point Robinson and be ready to walk into your neighbors’ cobbly and sandy living rooms with open eyes and greet them with a nice wet handshake!