15 April 2012

Tidepooling in Ecuador

I have recently learned how enjoyable and rewarding it is to discover everything that goes on within tidepools. Unfortunately I have only visited one site, but there is so much life there that I have been more than busy trying to photograph the variety of flora and fauna there. I am excited to do some tidepooling in other sites all along the Pacific coast in Ecuador.

I Googled tidepools Ecuador and all that came up were a couple of pictures of reflections in tidepools and then pictures of my own children, cousin and aunt taken by my own mother when she visited a few years ago!  I guess tidepooling hasn't really taken off as a massive tourist activity in Ecuador quite yet.

I hope this blog post contributes to changing that! I have taken these 20 pictures over the past year on a little beach called Chulluyupe, in the province of Santa Elena, Ecuador. I have no idea what most of these animals are called, or even what some of them are, so any help would be be greatly appreciated!

Getting pictures of the animals that live in tidepools has its challenges. For starters, they are almost all under water, so the reflection gets in the way as does any water movement. I have learned that I have to take an umbrella along to eliminate the sun's reflection in the water to get the right exposure for the pictures. The other challenge is that they are so small that you have to get within a couple of inches, and use macro, to get a good picture. This is not always possible because of the depth of the pools and the formation of the rocks. You have to be a contortionist to get close enough. And don't get the lens wet!

Tidepooling opens one's eyes to worlds unseen. The animals that live in these pools of water have become accustomed to 12 hours of violent movement and 12 hours of relative calm, although it is very difficult to imagine how such delicate animals can live through high tide. I imagine that they all have their little caves where they hide until they can see the sun again. So much diversity exists that it is clear they have evolved into this environment over hundreds or thousands of years. A case in point is the crab that finds places where the waves crash against the rocks and stands right in the most dangerous place. It looks like they will be swept away, but they come out victorious over the waves every time.

This starfish is amazing. The legs don't move at all, but the entire animal creeps along by moving the small filaments. The following picture shows another type of starfish, living alongside urchins.

The underside of this animal is pink and slimy, like a slug. It curls up into a ball in a most amazing way, becoming perfectly spherical.

The next two pictures are the best shots I could get of this kind of crab. It hides when you approach, but its caves are not very deep so I could get the second shot much to his chagrin.

The following picture shows an octopus that likes to hide among the intertidal rocks. It can grow quite big as you can see. This speciman fetches approximately $5 in local markets. This octopus hunter goes through this area every day and catches 4 or 5 a day, but most are much smaller than this one.

This shows the hundreds of hermit crabs that climb all over the seaweed, each with its own shell perfectly suited to its activities and needs.


Carole DeAngeli said...

tidepools are endlessly fascinating to me. You have captured some wonderful photos of the amazing diversity that survives in this ecological niche. Nice work, Justin!

Carlos Barrera said...

Wow, it is true that humans know almost nothing about sea life. These sea animals have the key to new technologies. They have been there for millennia and as long as humans respect their place, I do not see why that has to change.
Back in 1995, in Macara, Loja, I went to this place, near a river, close to the border line with Peru, and we swam in these big pools. They were intimidating because you cannot see the bottom through the amazingly crystal clear waters, and the water was so cold. I also saw some pools in the Amazon part of Ecuador. Now I wonder whether these pools also provide a micro environment for life. I do not remember seeing any, though.

Jordan said...

Awesome pictures man!! We should take a tide pooling trip to new places!!

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Mike Hamilla said...

Your right. Tidepooling is not a big thing here, and it's sad because there are some great tidepools in EC. I live on the coast in Salinas. My condo is situated directly on the beach at playa san lorenzo, which has several tidepool areas. I'm out there practically every day. They're beautiful.