I am the The Pacific Sand Crab, also known as the Mole Crab, a staple of the southern California beach goers experience. I am most frequently found on tidal sandy stretches of warm and sunny summertime beaches. I am quick to burrow to evade birds (Sandpipers, scooters and plovers) and fish (surfperch, corbina and small sharks) that key in on me as a food source. Humans with a quick hand have a shot at capturing me for amature science observation. A common sight on the beaches of San Diego County are inquisitive children armed with nothing more than plastic buckets and a sense of curiosity hunting me in the backwash of retreating waves.
These special wild places include: Baja’s Pacific Islands Biosphere Reserve, a brand new 2.7 million-acre wildlife reserve offshore from Baja’s Pacific coast, that we advocated for over the past five years; Laguna San Ignacio, a pristine gray whale birthing lagoon where we have helped to conserve 450,000-acres of habitat; Magdalena Bay, a lagoon that provides sanctuary for gray whales in Baja, where this year we helped to conserve over 182 miles of shoreline and 3,709-acres of mangrove islands; Morro Ayuta beach in Oaxaca, where our team is busy protecting the more than 600,000 Olive Ridley sea turtles that nest there each year; and the coast of California, where we are leading the effort to manage over 500,000 acres of marine protected areas that are home to elephant seals, gray whales, black sea bass, green sea turtles and the elusive leopard shark.
A few months ago, we installed a few hidden cameras in the Valle de los Cirios, Baja California, on areas protected by WILDCOAST. These “wild lands” have been certified by Mexico’s National Commission of Natural Protected Areas and are the largest private coastal reserve network in Mexico, reaching 32980.92 acres.
WILDCOAST started this biological inventory program to register and identify the types of wildlife that inhabit Valle de los Cirios. The hidden cameras were installed strategically to document the presence of wild fauna but also to not disturb or damage their habitat.
Week #5: Leopard Shark, Triakis semifasciata
I lurk in shallow nearshore marine waters in search of my next meal. I scan the seafloor using senses attuned to find prey that hides amongst the benthos*. When I zero in on my victim I surge forward and use my specially shaped sub-terminal* mouth to pluck it from its hiding place. I have been witnessed moving so quickly that I can snatch the siphon of a clam from the sand surface before it has the chance to retreat to its shell. I Although I can look and sound menacing, I am one of the more docile sharks in existence. At a general length of 4-5 feet I can send a chill down the spine of recreational beach goers if seen cruising underfoot but should be considered harmless.
There is no place on the California coast quite like Año Nuevo State Park. This jewel of a reserve that hugs Highway 1 between San Francisco and Santa Cruz is a haven for terrestrial and marine wildlife. Between December and late March northern elephant seals can be found along the shoreline where they are resting, mating and giving birth. It is a spectacular wildlife spectacle along one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in California.
In addition to the extensive terrestrial protection that abuts Big Basin Redwoods State Park and Butano State Park, the area is the home of the Año Nuevo State Marine Conservation Area, one of 15 marine protected areas off of the Central Coast. Due to the presence of the elephant seals that are the preferred food of white sharks, this area is known for its shark sightings. Researchers use the abandoned Lighthouse Station on Ano Nuevo Island for shark tagging.
CANCUN, Mexico, December 5, 2016 (ENS) – Much of Mexico’s Caribbean coast, Baja coast and deep ocean are to become protected areas, President Enrique Peña Nieto announced Monday at the opening of the 13th Conference of the Parties (COP 13) to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity being held in Cancun this week and next.
The President signed a decree creating three new marine biosphere reserves, on the occasion of hosting COP13. Ministers and delegates from over 190 countries are attending the conference.
Ensenada, Mexico. December 5, 2016. The President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, today established the 2.7 million acre Islands of the Pacific Biosphere Reserve just offshore of the Pacific Coast of the Baja California Peninsula. This new federal reserve includes 21 islands that are often referred to as the “Galapagos of Mexico” and protects the marine areas around the islands that are habitat for marine mammals, seabirds, and commercially valuable species of fish and shellfish.
“The Islands of the Pacific Biosphere Reserve, that includes the Coronado and Todos Santos Islands off of Tijuana and Ensenada and just south of San Diego, provide habitat for a variety of species that do not exist in any other part of the world,” said Dr. Serge Dedina, Executive Director of WILDCOAST. “In total, this new reserve is home to 50 percent more endemic species of vertebrates and plants per unit of surface area than the Galápagos Islands.”
Last week, a WILDCOAST team traveled to Puerto San Carlos in the community of Magdalena Bay. After three hours on the road surrounded by nothing other than cardon cacti, we arrived at our destination. As you enter Puerto San Carlos, you are welcomed by a sea of mangroves that surround the community, and you are instantly wowed.
Magdalena Bay is the largest wetland in Baja California and provides habitat for some of most pristine and biologically important mangroves in the world. Research has shown that coastal desert mangroves store up to five times more carbon than tropical mangroves.
I am one of the ocean’s most fascinating creatures and can only be found in marine environments. I am a member of phylum Echinodermata (Ancient Greek: echinos – “hedgehog” derma – “skin”) and we are special in that we are not found in freshwater or terrestrial environments. Like my brothers and sisters, I also possess the unique ability to regenerate my spiny limbs lost to predators like seagulls and can detach my arms to act as a distraction while I make my escape. If I am cut in half, I have the ability to grow into 2 new starfish—pretty cool! When I’m not avoiding predators I’m on the lookout for my next meal, which generally consists of barnacles, snails, mussels, limpets, and pretty much anything else I can find. I feed a bit differently that other organisms, which in my case means that I can extend my stomach out into tiny cracks in my prey’s shell and digest the soft tissue found inside.
Why should humans care about me?
I am the single most important organism in kelp forest ecosystems. So important in fact, scientists named the entire ecosystem after me. I am uniquely adapted to thriving in nearshore rocky habitat that covers much of the benthos of San Diego county’s marine areas. Something that most people do not know about me is that I am not a plant but actually an algae. I differ from plants in many ways, but most noticeably I do not have roots. I have what is known as a holdfast, which I use as an anchor to secure themselves to the seafloor. As one of the fastest growing organisms on the planet, I have been recorded growing by as much as 2 feet a day and reaching sizes of 150 feet in a single growing season. As a primary producer, I provide nourishment for the entire southern California ecosystem and facilitate San Diego counties vast biodiversity.