What you can see on a walk

I took my friend Cooper to the beach yesterday afternoon.

Not that beach, but that Cooper. He’s a little over a year old.

This isn’t about him though, it’s about sea stars. It was very low tide, so I went squidging and mincing through the intertidal zone with him so that he could swim after the tennis ball, which he loves doing with a passion that never fades. I eventually noticed a sea star, and then a couple more, and then another.

One was a rather faded dry purple; maybe it was dead. The next two were a vibrant deep purple – probably Pisaster ochraeus.


The last one was red, and many-armed, and it had spinelets along each arm, that were moving. It was extraordinary. Maybe the rose sea star, Crossaster papposus.

How about that?


  1. Trebuchet says


    Note to self: It’s been way too long since last walking on the beach!

  2. evilDoug says

    As soon as I saw the purple tip of the arm, I thought “Pisaster ochraceus” – ‘course I spelled it wrong & I rarely think in italics. Actually, I’m not sure what is in that picture – P. ochraceus is normally five-rayed. Do 6-rayed individuals occur?

    I really wish flying carpets or hover platforms were real. It’s so hard to get close to so many interesting things living in tide pools or on rocks along the beach without doing harm to others.

  3. Stacy says


    One of the most spectacular sights I ever saw was a partly-cloudy sunset on Capitola Beach in central California about 20 years ago. The sky was gold and silver (from rain clouds) with some salmon pink. It must have been low tide; there were dark reddish-pink starfish all over the beach–dozens of them, maybe hundreds–and seagulls were swooping down and picking them off.

  4. h. hanson says

    You’ve inspired me! Sometime this summer I must take my friends to the ocean. But I have more friends than you so it will be a bit of an effort. Bruce, Bess, Pete, Mabel, Jim, Steve and Snap. Maybe I’ll hitch up the trailer and take a couple of hooved friends – Sideshow Bob and Sea Squirt. If he is real nice (he usually is) I may take my human friend, Ron.
    Glad you had a fun time at the beach. Thanks for the inspiration!

  5. bcoppola says

    The Great Lakes have their charms, but gotta face it: we have nothing like intertidal zones and the cool critters that live there. And invasives are fucking everything up.

  6. kev_s says

    The purple one looks like it has evolved to live in modern fabric conditioner.
    So the beauty didn’t make you conclude this was evidence for a god then? 🙂

  7. says

    It’s true about the purple one! I was quite startled by the color. I didn’t know there were such things. It’s really gaudy.

    Heh, no, I just had the usual geeky thought – wow, nature, wow, all this weird stuff, wow, look at it all, wow, abundance, wow, all this is just living here, under the water except at low tide, no wonder PZ got into squid, growing up around here, wow, cool, wow, I probably shouldn’t be walking around in the intertidal zone at all, look where you step, wow.

  8. kev_s says

    Last time I explored the inter-tidal zone I fell while jumping from rock to rock (too old for that sort of thing really) and broke a rib. Then my friends laughed at me and I laughed, and …
    I should stick to the beach or the bar.

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