On Wavy Turbans

Hello and welcome to Kleimansays.com’s version of National Geographic.

As the warm, sunny weather returns to Southern California, we tend to visit the beach quite often.  Malibu, with its dramatic coastline, turquoise waters, and “private” beaches, is a major draw, and is about a 22 minute drive.

One of the great things about California beaches is the abundant tide pools, where rocks, sand and plants create these little worlds of sea anemone, mussels, starfish, sea urchins and other animals and plants. One can spend hours and hours exploring the tide pools.  It’s both an adventure and an education, and hence a great thing to do with kids.

tidepool
Small section of Malibu tide pool. Note baby sea anemone and pink corallina algae

While I might be rapidly approaching the age of retirement (not actual retirement, as that’s not affordable), at the beach I revert to a kid.  I play in the water, body surf, and at low tide, scramble out onto the tide pools to look at all the cool fish and stuff!

Years ago, it was not unusual to find a beautiful or even rare sea shell at the beach, but millions upon millions of beach-goers have picked up all the readily obvious ones.  And while I generally don’t look for shells in the tide pools as they tend to be garden variety clam and mussel shells, once in a while there might be an interesting snail shell or even the exoskeleton of a sea urchin (which are very fragile and can crumble under pressure).  And of course scallop shells and so forth.

This past weekend, I was walking around one of the pools that sits in front of a 25 million-dollar mansion, seeing a lot of good stuff.  Many mussels and lots of sea anemone.  Colorful seaweed and hundreds of those little hermit crabs. Pink coral algae. Expected to spot a few sea stars like we saw a few weeks ago, but not this day.

Then I saw what looked like a piece of a larger shell wedged under a large rock and held tightly in place by many smaller rocks and sand.  It wouldn’t budge. Here, I recreate what I saw, using my hand in place of the rocks.

Shell1
This is what was visible in the water. My hand represents stones. This is what we call “hand acting.”

Determined to free this interesting-looking object, I wiggled the rock under it.  Then next to it. Then above it. It was all pretty solid, but I kept trying to wiggle the small stones back and forth. Finally, one of them came loose, but the shell was still stuck.  I kept working around the shell, pulling out smaller shells and sand, until I felt the rock above it shift and then pulled out this:

Wow!  This was a rare find, for me at least.  There was a rock lodged in the opening of the shell, which I wiggled free.  It’s important not to remove any living sea creatures, and I wanted to make sure the shell was empty.  Repeated rinsing dislodged a bunch of sand and pebbles.  It was empty.  In fact, based on how wedged-in it was, that shell could have been there for years, or even a century, for all I knew.  This was organic history!

Shell2
Iridescent interior, similar to abalone. Ooooh. Pretty!

Here’s the educational part: What the hell is this thing anyway?  After some quick research (you’re welcome) it turns out this is the shell of a Wavy Turban Snail. That’s right.  From the looks of the shell, one presumes. Scientific name: Megastraea undosa. Sounds like a Hermione Granger spell. (Ironically, Miss Granger was a member of the Slug Club at Hogwarts.)

This snail is fished commercially (by divers) on the west coast, and they are popularly sold as a canned seafood product south of the wall, er, border, in Mexico, where it is known as caracol panocha.  It is a delicacy for many people who find its taste and texture similar to abalone, which is much more expensive and regulated.

caracol-marino-ing
Mmm. Tasty sea snails. Put ’em on salads or eat ’em straight out of the can!

Okay, so they’re not very attractive out of the shell.  People eat the foot.  That’s right, the foot, but they eat pigs’ feet don’t they?  Anyhow, that’s the part of the clam or snail that look like a tongue and comes out of the shell so the clam can move itself from one place to another.  So if you like to eat clams, you’ve been eating feet. Sorry.

The most interesting thing about the Wavy Turban (besides its culturally appropriating name, that is)? Despite being a large population, much of the species lives in protected waters and not much is known about them, nor have many studies been done.

That said, there are marine biologists who spend a lot of time looking at the gonads of sea snails.  I’m not sure what they are looking for, or at, and challenge anyone out there to accurately point out the location of a Wavy Turban Snail’s sexual organs.  More research, you say?  Let’s respect the snail’s privacy and dignity, shall we?  You wouldn’t want some snail googling your gonads, now would you?

Here’s my favorite passage from an article on the Wavy Turban population: “Three reproductive phases occur during the year. Gonad growth and maturity take place during the spring and early summer, followed by spawning in late summer. Somatic growth occurs during the fall and winter. Recruitment of new juveniles has been observed from January to April.” – California’s Living Marine Resources: A Status Report. Ian Taniguchi and Laura Rogers-Bennett California Department of Fish and Game, 2001.

Does this mean they only mate once a year?  Does that make them grouchy?  Don’t get between a Wavy Turban and his prospective mate. They will run you down as soon as look at you.

Now, I get reproductive phases and spawning.  Somatic growth seems basic.  But what’s with this recruitment of new juveniles thing? This seems unsavory and my guess is it needs to be stopped.  What are they recruiting these juveniles for?  It can’t be good.

ONE LAST THING

There’s a product call Chantix that helps people quit smoking.  One of the commercials is Ray Liotta acting like he’s, well, acting and telling us how he quit with Chanitx.

The other day, I saw this commercial where a turkey was mowing the lawn, watching TV, and a taking part in whole lot of other human activities.  It was a very odd thing. Well, it turns out this was a Chantix ad also.

turkeyleaf (2)
Aaahhh! Turkey doing yard work! Run away!

It seems the point of it is that taking their product is better or easier than going cold turkey. Okay, turkey, got it.  All I know is, something about a turkey mowing and leaf-blowing a lawn is really disturbing. The only way it could be more disturbing is if the turkey was wearing a wavy turban.

So what have we learned?  It’s good to get out in nature, and when you do, pay attention and observe the details.  You will be rewarded.

And also, instead of dogs, people might want to consider keeping a turkey, as they can mow the lawn for you.

No lawn-mowing turkeys or wavy turbans in Smoking in Bed.  That’s why these topics are written about here.  Someone has to do it.

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