Christmas Present

Today at The Needles a Christmas anemone was present. The sight of this animal's strange coloration in the morning sun was a gift to my senses.

From talking with the folks at Haystack Rock Awareness Program (HRAP), I gather this is the first Christmas anemone, Urticina crassicornis, (aka mottled anemone or painted anemone) sighted around Haystack. At Ecola Point I've found a dozen or so Christmas anemones dangling from boulders in the low intertidal zone; this was the first specimen I've seen at Haystack or The Needles.

While staring at the red and green Christmas anemone, a harbor seal put its periscope up a few feet from me. This sleek creature sighed and blinked its dark eyes; then it disappeared amid a raft of harlequin ducks, their painted faces bright in the sun. The necks of cormorants nesting on the cliffs above shimmered like peacock plumage. It seems strange to me that there was only one Christmas anemone on all the rock walls I searched, but I suppose that's no stranger than anything else at the edge of the sea.

Tomorrow I will return to the lone Christmas anemone at The Needles to look for the candy-stripe shrimp, Lebbeus grandimanus. This colorful species has a commensal relationship with Urticina crassicornis. The southern end of the shrimp's range seems to be Puget Sound, but that won't stop me from searching for it. I'm pretty sure that if I see this tropical-looking shrimp next to a Christmas anemone at The Needles, my head will explode from sensory overload.

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