Kelp is anchored in the ocean by a root-like structure called a holdfast. During storms, or when large waves or strong currents come through, kelp can detach from its underlying substrate and begin to drift in the ocean. As the kelp floats along it often becomes entangled and forms a buoyant configuration of algae that we refer to as a kelp raft, or kelp paddy. While still anchored, kelp provides protection for fish and a is a habitat for many invertebrates such as snails, sea stars, and crabs. After the organism is uprooted, kelp rafts attract many new species adrift, while original dwellers often continue to call it home.
As kelp rafts drift into the open ocean, they become an important resource for pelagic species of fish. Living in the open ocean, these fish can take advantage of the kelp raft as a possible food source where invertebrates and high densities of plankton may be trapped. Baitfish often school under kelp rafts for protection, and clusters of juvenile fish use this drifting habitat as a nursery. Even our largest bony fish, the mola mola, or ocean sunfish, will come to the surface where a kelp raft is present to solicit the help of cleaner fish and birds that are looking for a tasty meal to rid the massive fish of its parasites.
These rafts can drift for miles across the ocean, and have even been regarded as a way for marine invertebrates and different species of algae to find new homes on nearby islands or drift to different countries. You never know what types of animals you will find in or under a kelp raft, so take a peak next time and see who made this floating ecosystem its home!
Whether protecting our kelp forests through predation, or acting as an enticing entrée on a dinner plate, the California Spiny Lobster is a vital organism for both our ecosystems and our appetites. When compared to mammals, the California Spiny Lobster truly looks other-worldly, like something out of a Guillermo Del Toro movie. Adult male lobster can grow up to 3 feet in length, and weigh 25 pounds. You may notice that they look like bugs of the sea; that is because they belong to the phylum Arthopoda, meaning “jointed limbs”. This phylum is home to many common insects and crustaceans, like spiders, centipedes, and crabs.
Unlike their heavily armed cousins, the American Lobster, California Spiny lobster do not have large claws protruding from their front. Instead they have sharp spines on their carapace for defense, as well as very strong jaws that could deliver a nasty bite. They use their strong jaws to crush open and devour many kelp-eating creatures like sea urchins; therefore lobsters are crucial in maintaining a healthy ecosystem balance. Lobsters can crawl around on the ocean floor in any direction, however while swimming, the lobster can only move backwards. Using their powerful tail, California Spiny Lobster propel themselves backwards into rocks and crevices to hide. Though a quick escape, this defense also makes them effectively blind while retreating from a predator.
Prized for it’s rich meat, the California Spiny Lobster makes up one of the largest sport fisheries on the west coast. Lobster hunters must acquire a California sport fishing license as well as an ocean enhancement stamp in order to catch the appetizing arthropod. There are many regulations to lobster diving such as legal size, number you can catch in one outing, dates that you can gather lobster, and more. These regulations are in place to make the lobster industry as enjoyable and sustainable as possible. Size limits are in place to allow lobsters to grow to a reproductive age. Catch number is regulated so not too many are taken from a habitat. Hunting season dates are in place to make sure lobsters are safe during the time they are carrying eggs and molting. If you have any questions about lobster fishing, you should visit the website for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife at www.dfws.ca.gov.
Both delicious and nutritious. Un-mammalian and totally alien. The California spiny lobster plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy ocean ecosystem as well as supplying us with a delicious dish.
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