The ocean’s largest inhabitants, such as whales, sharks and dolphins, are often the creatures that capture our imagination when we think of that vast mysterious body of water. Its smallest indwellers, though, are more than worthy of investigation. They will provide you with a nature experience steeped in diversity, wonder and almost as many colours as the rainbow.
Take a wander to the rock pools in Chesterman beach, Tofino, kneel down, get close, watch for a while and enjoy a whole world in a tiny puddle of water. Little fish may swim by, a crab may suddenly appear from under the sand and disappear again. And if you see a conical shell with protruding legs scuttle by, it is probably a hermit crab. They take over abandoned shells as portable dwellings to protect their vulnerable bodies.
Clinging to the sides of the rocks you will find tightly packed rows of adaptible blue-purple mussels, who are quite happy to remain there whether the tide is in or out – just imagine spending half your day baking in the sun and dry air and the other half with waves breaking over your head! Barnacles are there too, little craggy white shell-like edifices that are actually related to crabs. Watch where you put your feet around them, though, they are sharp!
Prettiest and most colourful, probably what most of us hope to see, are anenomes, sea urchins and sea stars. Thankfully, these are all usually plentiful in Tofino. Sea urchins’ empty green round shells are sometimes seen lying on the beach, with their spines long gone. If you see one with pretty red spines still on it, be sure not to stand on it, as it may still be alive and its spines will hurt your foot like a barnacle will. If you very gently touch one of the spines with your finger, though, you will do one another no harm.
Another interesting interaction could be to very gently touch a beautiful waving green sea anenome. Feel how soft its tentacles are to a human hand. To be kind to them, though, only do this once or twice because when you touch them, they think they are about to get some food and will contract their tentacles to eat.
And lastly, there is no need to worry about finding the most loved rock pool dweller of them all. You are sure to see an orange, purple, red or pink sea star in Tofino as its rock pools are home to forty different species of starfish. And if you see one with a limb missing, there is no cause for sadness, they are blessed with an ability to regenerate their limbs.
Have fun seeing how many different and wonderful creatures you can find in Tofino’s rock pools. Can you find one we haven’t mentioned here? We left some out on purpose, as a surprise.