Lately some interesting “things” have been washing up on the beaches due to the very high tides and a strong swell that pulls them off the rocks. First is the bryozoan, Flustrellidra corniculata, the lower slightly pink thing in the picture. Yes—it’s an animal! It is a colony of very small individuals all grouped together in a sheath with tiny spines sticking out of various members of the colony. It is soft, not prickly and can vary in size and number of the odd-shaped projections. corniculata means “provided with little horns.” These creatures live in the rocky intertidal and are usually attached to algae or other organisms and the individuals feed on things tinier than themselves, like bacteria, and plankton in the water.
The second animal in the picture, orangeish and feather-like, is a hydroid, Aglaophenia latirostris, the ostrich plume hydroid. Hydroids are in the same phylum as sea jellies and anenomes, the Cnidaria. If you look closely, you can see little lighter orange thicker segments on the branches of the plumes. These are the feeding polyps, many in each thick segment. When the colony washes in, those polyps are usually gone and all that is left is the feathery plume. The polyps are all connected within the colony and share the food they filter out of the water. Aglaophenia lives on rocks and attached to algae and will break loose when there is enough force and the colony is too large to hang on.