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Objects on Oregon's Beaches Yield More Wonders
photos by Tiffany Boothe
- A closer look at Oregon’s beaches often reveals new things,
but it can create more questions than it answers.
A recent closer
peek at the sands at Hug Point –
near Cannon Beach - showed some tiny wonders appearing on the
beach. Seaside Aquarium’s Tiffany Boothe found a miniscule
creature called the gooseberry – or comb jellies. Their scientific
name is Pleurobrachia, and Boothe says they periodically show up
on the Oregon coast when west winds push them onshore.
are both residents of near shore and open ocean habitats,”
Boothe said. “They are abundant at times along the West Coast,
but as with all jellies they are not seasonal. They can wash up
anytime. They can swim, but not against the ocean's currents. So
like the purple sails (which washed up recently in great abundance,
causing that fishy smell), they are at the mercy of the ocean. Strong
west winds will strand them on the beach.”
are barely a quarter inch in diameter, and look like big bubbles
sitting by the tide line.
They are actually
completed unrelated to jellyfish, although these translucent, spherical
creatures are often mistaken for them. Gooseberries come with two
feathery tentacles, which can be retracted into special pouches.
The name comb jelly refers to the eight rows of hair-like cilia
on their bodies, which vibrate and enables them to swim.
they also differ from regular jellies because they have no stinging
cells (called nematocysts). “They capture their food with
a transparent mucous 'net,' ‘ Boothe said. “They are
strictly carnivores, feeding on a variety of platonic animals. They
are both residents of near shore and open ocean habitats.”
Even more striking about
them: at night, they are luminescent, meaning they glow.
shots of these creatures are stunning enough. But the unusual nature
of the sand around them begs further questioning. Why so many colors
in the sand here, since the beach itself at Hug Point appears to
be no different in color than most beaches? Is this normal? Do all
beaches have this many kinds of grain all over?
of sand reveals startling colors
were startling. Newport’s Guy DiTorrice (fossil expert known
as Oregon Fossil Guy
and Beach Connection columnist), said every beach has its own different
“The sand is ‘colored’
by the predominate minerals present in the rock formations in its
immediate area and from any creek or river outflow,” DiTorrice
said. “The central and north coasts tend to be browner/tan,
thanks to all the Astoria formation sandstone that's around. On
the southern Coast - Curry County - the sand has a very dark and
gray coloring to it, as the many exposures of Nye and Coledo formation
rock are very ash laden.
to this base formula the crushed and tumbling remains of basalt,
all sorts of quartz/agates, minerals (e.g. gold, garnets, etc),
fossilized (usually silicated or agatized) bone, shells and woods.
Then mix in the additional impact of near-coastal outflows (treated/untreated
human and Mother Nature's). Finally, add the additional contributions
of oil (crude and processed), broken up aluminum cans, plastic water
bottles and colored glass from a variety of sources, and you get
some pretty spectacular colors.”
sand is very dynamic, containing various kinds of rock, like boulders,
cobble, pebble and concretion made from all sorts of materials,
such as quartz, mica and granite. “You can see that each beach
produces its own unique type and colors of sand. And, as is the
case of so many things in our universe, there are people who collect
sands to illustrate just how different it can be around the world.”