This week's full moon pulled back the blanket of ocean at our house an extra hundred yards. It also drew Pamelia, heavily bundled against the bitter Maine cold, out from her studio to explore the exposed sea bottom. She took photos until her frozen fingers couldn't function anymore.
We're never sure what we'll find in the low-tide zone in mid-winter—especially after watching urchin-fishing boats repeatedly demolish swaths of the fragile bay floor with their metal draggers—but one surprise Pamelia discovered on this late afternoon was a four-inch-wide Northern moon snail. We'd never encountered a live one before.
Moon snails are like lunar drilling devices from a sci-fi movie. Using a radula—sort of a tongue with teeth—they bore perfectly round holes into their prey, most often clams, at least where we live. The reason we'd previously found only empty moon-snail shells (or shells inhabited by hermit crabs, who luxuriate in the McMansion-like spaciousness of the larger models) is visible in the sky: The many gulls who circle and feed at our point. A hefty moon snail is far more satisfying than one of the mussels the gulls pluck from the rockweed-covered boulders that are exposed at low tide.
If you visit The Naturalist's Notebook this summer, you'll see more of the under-appreciated life forms found in Maine's intertidal zone—and a LOT more on what's going on with the world's oceans.
You will not, however, see Pamelia or I make like Bear Grylls on Man vs. Wild and gulp down a live moon snail.
Did You See...
...that NASA this week released new photos of Pluto (see previous blog post, and NASA's website)? More detailed images and information are coming: A probe launched in 2006 will reach the dwarf planet in a mere five more years.
The Notebook Dictionary:
Gastropod (such as the moon snail): The class of animals made up of snails and slugs. There are as many as 80,000 known species; in the world of animals, only the insect class has more species—in excess of a million.
On Feb. 8 I head off to the Vancouver Winter Olympics for Sports Illustrated. Follow the Games at http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/. Also check this blog, where, as I have time, I will try to post some updates on what's happening out there.
Discouraging Quote of the Week:
As reported in The New York Times, from Michael Honeycutt of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, speaking at a hearing on proposed tighter federal pollution regulations, which might require Texans to drive less or otherwise alter their behavior to ensure cleaner air: “Programs that require lifestyle changes are unacceptable to the public,” he said.