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Monday, June 8, 2009

Enteromorpha intestinalis

Along many of the rocky intertidal zones in the San Juan Islands you can see a bright green algae close to the high tide line. The lighting wasn't great for the photo above, but it really is a striking color, sometimes looking almost neon green. I knew that this species especially thrives in places where there are freshwater seepages (like the crevice in the rock in the photo above), but I never knew the exact species of seaweed it was....until now, thanks to my friend and colleague Captain Pete who shared the intriguing scientific name with me the other day: Enteromorpha intestinalis.

Also known as gutweed or grass kelp, E. intestinalis is a species found worldwide. In actuality, there are several Enteromorpha speices that are difficult to tell apart, especially since the morphology of the plant changes in response to environmental factors. Since E. intestinalis depends on freshwater to stay moist during low tide, sailors used to look for it as an indicator of terrestrial freshwater sources.

The genus Enteromorpha is part of the sea lettuce family, which includes many edibile species that are eaten not only by creatures like manatees but humans as well. Many sea lettuces are listed as being in the genus Ulva, which confused me at first, but apparently the Ulva and Enteromorpha genera were merged. I think I'll keep using the Enteromorpha name because it sounds so much cooler.


julie said...

very nice to give the algae some space, and i, too, like the "old" name. however, i have to admit that the bull kelp is my favorite, shimmering in the sunlight and giving me a natural "rope" to hold onto when i'm sitting in my kayak and not wanting to float away with the current! there are a lot of cool things hanging onto those rocky walls, shores and near shore places in the san juans.

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Nice rocky shore line to explore there Monika. We had a children's event on our concrete sea wall and found over 40 species of shells, worms, starfish etc including some baby plaice (a flatfish - if you don't get them your side)which we have never recorded before, and they prove our sea is getting cleaner at long last.
Can recommend rockpooling as a great way to spend a sunny summer's afternoon.



Monika said...

Julie - Orcas are the stars of the ecosystem locally, but can't forget the seals, birds, flowers, and yes, even algae. Hmm, I'll have to post about kelp at some point. I like it too, and I have some cool photos to share.

Dave - I too love exploring rocky shorelines. I'm familiar with local tidepool (you call it rockpooling over there? We call it tidepooling!) critters like limpets, chitons, starfish, urchins, snails, and hermit crabs, but once you get into worms and the like I'm completely lost. No, I've never heard of plaice....we get some sculpin in our pools but it would be cool to see a flatfish!