Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Salps in the Surf

The shallows where we swim on Block Island, and the sandbars in the Great Salt Pond, where we clam, have been invaded by transparent, pellet-sized, glass-like animals called salps. We've vacationed on the island 10 times in the last 13 years and we've never seen them before, and people who have been going there for longer have never seen them before either. Swimming through them is like swimming through tapioca. On the sand, in the late afternoon sun, they shine like diamonds or cut glass or tiny mirrors. My guess is that they've been around before but not in such abundance. Swimmers think they're jellyfish or fish eggs. But salps are primitive vertebrates in the tunicate family (or so two marine biologists at the Block Island Maritime Institute told me). They have tiny hooks on each end and at times apparently latch on to each other and form long chains. Over the last two weeks they were unhooked, and the hooks sometimes give you a needle-like stick when you're swimming.

Some people at Soundwaters, by the way, found a seahorse in Long Island Sound a few days ago. Salps I had never heard of; seahorses I didn't realize were so unusual in this area.

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Blogger Nan Patience said...

We noticed these things in the ocean off the Hamptons this summer, but I didn't know what they were called or what they were. Good to know!

12:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been on island quite a few times in the late season when the salps come in - they're usually in chains, but can get broken up into the gazillions of individuals we swam in during August... Thanks to the gulf stream for bringing them up the coast.

2:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW, we were at Ballards Beach on Block Island 9/3/08 and there were millions along the sea shore on the sand. I googled what they were and thanx for the knowledge. They appeared to have little celia (hairs) on one end.

7:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Found them in the water of Wildwood Crest, N.J. this week,also. Lived by the ocean all my life and have never noticed these before. There were massive amounts in the water and on the shore when the tide went out. Found this very strange. There was an article in our local paper today, couldn't find out what they were previously.

5:50 AM  

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