Tidepools 101

Have you ever gazed into a crystal ball and contemplated your past, present, or future?   Well look no further than a tidepool! Some theories suggest that life on earth began with simple organisms that thrived in tidepools. These mystical ocean pools hold all the answers that your are seeking in an all-foreseeing magic ball. Before we get into the origins of life, let’s talk about what makes a tidepool!

Tidepools form close to shore when ocean water gets trapped in rocky or reef environments. Tidepools are exactly what they sound like…pools of water that are formed by the ever-changing tide! These micro-ecosystems are subject to strong currents, warmer temperatures, and sometimes extended periods without water.

Tidepools give us the unique opportunity to examine the variety of species that live within them, especially during low tide. Many different plants and animals thrive in these pools, and are capable of surviving the rough ocean in the intertidal zone. Frequent inhabitants of tidepools include limpets, barnacles, chitins, crabs, anemones, and other sessile, or stationary, organisms. While observing tidepools here at CIMI, we will often see many of these kinds of animals. We have a rocky intertidal zone, with a mixed semi-diurnal tide. This means that we have two high tides and two low tides each day, each with different tidal ranges. The animals that live within our rocky environment must adapt to endure these harsh conditions by developing hard exterior shells, or an ability to survive both in and out of water. Sometimes we are lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the elusive octopus climbing around the pools searching for crabs!

People have enjoyed the beauty of tidepools for both educational, as well as nutritional values—sometimes we gather food from these exposed areas! Mollusks thrive in intertidal zones, and people collect the shelled creatures such as mussels, clams, and oysters. Along California’s coastline, there are tons of amazing tidepools just waiting to be discovered. So what are you waiting for? Go out there are get tidepooling!

Here are a few links to check out some great tidepooling areas around Southern and Central California!

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in San Mateo

Leo Carrillo State Park in Malibu

Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz