The shores of Point Reyes are full of rocky cliffs. These cliffs create large, rocky intertidal zones that harbor a variety of hardy crustaceans. The animals most commonly associated with subphylum Crustacea are the bigger members such as shrimp and crabs, but Crustacea also includes important members that are only visible with a microscope. Crustaceans have a couple of defining qualities. They have segmented bodies with hardened shells which are regularly shed. Their limbs have two branches to them, and they have two pairs of antennae. Six classes make up the subphylum Crustacea and are by far the most dominant arthropod on earth. Members of all of the classes inhabit the waters of Point Reyes, but only some can be easily found.
Fairy Shrimp, Tadpole Shrimp, Water Fleas, & Clam Shrimp
Barnacles, Fish Parasites, & Copepods
The dominant group within this class is definitely the copepods. They make up most of what is known as zooplankton. Zooplankton feeds shrimp and krill, which feeds much of the larger life forms in the ocean. Ecologically they are very important because they absorb carbon and transfer it to the ocean carbon sink. In California a little orange speck called Tigriopus californicus is most commonly identified in intertidal zones and looks like red pepper in a glass of water.
Shrimp, Crab, Lobsters, & Krill
Here in Point Reyes...
These creatures are among the hardiest in nature, surviving for several hours each day out of the water and withstanding the intense pounding surf. However, they are not resistant against encroaching new species and they don’t have a defense against curious humans. It is important to recognize that when these creatures are visible, they are also the most vulnerable and must be treated with respect.
Text by Kristen Truchinski