Beneath the Ocean Blanket Part 2

What a wonder the prehistoric ocean floor would have offered!

 

shellsky-2It is an easy dive. . . only about 8 to 9 feet deep at high tide. We’re opposite the lee side of a sand bar which almost reaches the surface. To the west of us are the barrier islands that protect the mainland.

That is what these snails are all about. They are hunters. Their teeth are part of a strange sawing kind of system called a radula. The radula turns back and forth creating a perfectly round hole in the shell of the shellfish it’s eating.

shellsky-3

Tip yourself up for a moment to see above the waves. We’re heading for those islands to the east. The bottom drops away . Eel grass will thin into patches. Finally, the velvet rays of sunlight, dancing down, display patterns on a sandy bottom. It almost looks like a desert with cloud shadows passing by. Here and there we see the holes made by a comical small fish. It’s a Blennioidei, commonly known as a blenny. It has a short face with large eyes and it hovers just outside its burrow. If any other blenny comes around, it chases it away. Clams live beneath the sand and moon snails hunt them. The extinct Murex hunted there also.

murex

Muricidae

Climbing up toward the surface reveals beds of stingray’s. Arrow crabs, scurry over the rippled bottom, looking for morsels. They haven’t changed in many millions of years.

The wave motion tumbles shells into a hash. Broken halves litter the bottom in a mosaic of fantastic colors. The ribbons of sunlight dazzle this kaleidoscopic palette with sweeping rhythms.

On the other side of the barrier island is a whole new symphony of life. But, for us, other times whisper in the winds which ruffle the surface of the Gulf.

The ocean bottom is covered with worm shells. You can’t see the shells because they are covered by a thin layer of sand. What you see is the delicate feathery fans they send up to filter out small creatures from the passing water.

Tiny fish dart around the feathers. When a starfish comes close, the tendrils withdraw beneath the sand. Scallops, the size of saucers, litter the bottom. Their brightly colored tentacles, waving food into their shells, are punctuated with dark metallic blue eyespots. A variety of other small clams make this place their home as well.

On the other side of the barrier island is a whole new symphony of life. But, for us, other times whisper in the winds which ruffle the surface of the Gulf.

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