Creature Feature: A Retrospective

By Casey Cruikshank


Note: The NEC has started a weekly Creature Feature post on our social media. Here is a sample of posts from the past month. To see these weekly posts in real time follow us on or on Instagram @your_nec.

Spotted Triopha
Spotted Triopha. Photo taken in a Trinidad tidepool by Casey Cruikshank.
Triophas are a species of sea slug called nudibranchs. They’re fairly common in our local tidepools but this color variation comes far and few between. On rare occasions Spotted Triopha can grow up to seven inches long but on average they only grow up to two inches. The one pictured is approximately three inches long.
If you’re interested in finding some nudibranchs of your own, take a little trip down to our rocky shores! Remember, it takes a good low tide to see these fellas so be sure to check the tides. Understanding a tide chart is an important part of being a savvy beach goer. Learn more by googling our local tide charts or downloading an app.
Always be aware of the waves and look, but do not touch your tidepool friends. Understanding the ocean and the creatures within is an important part of loving and protecting our valuable coastal ecosystem. So, grab your social distance buddies, go do some exploring and don’t forget to snag a few pieces of trash along the way!

Northern Kelp Crab

Norther Kelp Crab. Photo taken in Trinidad tide pools by Casey Cruikshank.

The Northern Kelp Crab (Pugettia producta) is commonly found in local tide pools during low tide. Their coloring depends on the type of food they consume. They’re primarily nocturnal and their diet mostly consists of kelp. Their favorites include bull kelp, sea cabbage, and rockweed. If eating green kelp, they tend to be green. If eating red, they tend to be red and so on and so forth. Because they take on the color of the surrounding kelp from their diet, they have a natural camouflage which helps to provide protection against predators.

Kelp crabs fall into the Family Epialdida, a group called masking crabs that like to attach algae and kelp to their shells to help with camouflage. Though kelp crabs mostly like to maintain a smooth shell for easier movement, they can occasionally be found attaching kelp and algae to their shells not as a mask but as a way to store food for later. Keep an eye out for these characters next time you’re in the tide pools!


Crayfish in the Smith River by the NEC’s Coastal Programs Coordinator, Casey Cruikshank.

Have you ever snorkeled in our local rivers? There are many beautiful creatures to be found. Featured is a Crayfish, also known as a Crawdad. They’re freshwater crustaceans resembling small lobsters. Though Crayfish can be found in a variety of locations around the world, North America has the greatest diversity with over 330 species.

This photo was taken by Casey Cruikshank in the Smith River. This summer is a great time to grab a mask and explore our rivers and streams from a new perspective.


California Newt, Cute AND Deadly

California Newt. Photo taken in the Smith River by the NEC’s Coastal Programs Coordinator, Casey Cruikshank.

The California Newt (Taricha torosa) is a species endemic to California. Adults can reach 5 to 8 inches in length. Their skin produces a potent neurotoxin that is hundreds of times more toxic than cyanide, but is only harmful if ingested. Due to their toxicity they have very few natural predators. Garter snakes are their most common predator and some species have developed a genetic resistance to their toxins. The California Newt’s diet mostly consists of earthworms, snails, slugs, woodlice, bloodworms, mosquito larvae, crickets and other invertebrates.