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Oregon Coast Beach Discoveries Include Rare Fish, Jellies, Uglies

Published 11/05/2015 at 4:25 AM PDT - Published 11/05/2015 at 4:45 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

(Oregon Coast) – One wintry storm surge is all it takes and many Oregon coast beaches become a treasure trove of wacky stuff. While around much of the coast, some unique and rather ugly little creatures keep mysteriously popping up, one group in the Seaside area discovered a host of interesting beasties and objects that storms had brought up onshore.

All photos here by Tiffany Boothe of Seaside Aquarium. Pictured above: a salp with a purple tip.

The big news all over the beaches seems to be the sizable occurrence of burrowing sea cucumbers just about everywhere – in huge piles in some places.

These rather unattractive critters normally sit a ways below the sand, and are actually rarely seen. Experts like Dr. Bill Hanshumaker from Newport's Hatfield Marine Science Center said he's received numerous reports in that area, and social media along the Oregon coast has been quietly exploding with pictures of large sightings all over.

Scientists are a bit puzzled by this because the burrowing sea cucumbers almost never show up in such large numbers, and it's quite rare to spot even one or two a year. Tiffany Boothe of Seaside Aquarium spotted a few back in August, but noted she'd only seen them a few times over the years.

They usually only get about 35mm in length.

Earlier this week, Seaside Aquarium happened across a lot of fascinating items – both living and not.

“The strong south, southwesterly winds brought in a lot of debris, including 11 juvenile ocean sun fish,” Boothe said.

The ocean sun fish – otherwise known as mola mola – are the extraordinary part. They are mostly found in tropical and warmer waters than these colder areas off the Oregon coast. Your chances of seeing them are a little better this time of year when the ocean coughs up a lot of stuff.

Boothe said they are unique fish that feed on jellyfish and seem to spend most of their time basking in the sun, lazily floating along the ocean's surface.

Then, gobs of salps showed up as well; these are closely related to the jellyfish. This particular group had a curious feature.

“If you look at the end of the salp you'll notice a small purple/blue teardrop shape,” Boothe said.

These are Thaliea democratica, and they are the smallest salp on the west coast. But they have astonishing growth rates where they can increase 10 to 20 percent in length in an hour. While Boothe spotted quite a few this summer, these were larger.

Another fascinating find: a giant log with gooseneck barnacles still stuck to it. Pelagic goosneck barnacles attach and live exclusively on floating debris, including boats, seaweed, and sometimes even sea turtles.

Boothe and aquarium staff noted a few bald eagles lurking on high perches above the beach, waiting for goodies to come washing in.

Sea foam was also going bonkers on this day, which often happens when the ocean gets it churned up and frothy. Lots of bull kelp was found on the beaches as well.


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