A Treasure Trove in Tidepools

Take a trip with us to Titlow Beach in Tacoma and see what tidepool organisms we find.

What are tides?

Ocean with waves, cliffs and a dead tree.
Incoming tide at Rialto Beach, Washington.

What are tidepools?

Purple sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus), sea belt (Saccharina latissima), Polysiphona, and California mussel (Mytilus californianus) shells in one tidepool.
Purple sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus), sea belt (Saccharina latissima), Polysiphona, and California mussel (Mytilus californianus) shells in one tidepool.

Where are tidepools?

Figure 1: This graph shows the different tide zones on Pacific Northwest coastlines and the types of animals you may find in the four different zones (splash zone-low tide zone). Pelagic means open sea and abyssal means deep sea.
Figure 1: This graph shows the different tide zones on Pacific Northwest coastlines and the types of animals you may find in the four different zones (splash zone-low tide zone). Pelagic means open sea and abyssal means deep sea.

What kinds of intertidal life am I likely to find in Washington?

The magenta color on this rock is coralline algae. You can also find many other species in this picture including purple, red, and tan sponge, chitons, sea stars and more.
Gooseneck barnacles are commonly found among California mussles. In the upper right, you may also spot a black leather chiton (Katharina tunicata)
Gooseneck barnacles are commonly found among California mussels. In the upper right, you may also spot a black leather chiton (Katharina tunicata)
You may see giant green anemones clustered together, or as individuals in tidepools.
An ochre sea star shows off its tubular feet while walking across aggregating anemones (Anthopleura elegantissima)
Ochre sea stars come in purple, red, and orange.
Sea lettuce along the shoreline of Puget Sound. Credit: Shannon Point Marine Center, Western Washington University.
Purple algae and sponge with oval shaped chitons.
Lined chiton (Tonicella lineata) and Mossy chiton (Mopalia muscosa) graze on coralline algae. This rock also has purple sponge (Haliclona permollis).
A Western gull (Larus occidentalis) captures a red rock crab (Cancer productus)during low tide.
A Western gull (Larus occidentalis) captures a red rock crab (Cancer productus) during low tide.
Black oystercatchers (Haematopus bachmani) are found in intertidal zones. Their long, strong beaks can be used for prying mussels and barnacles open and getting in to hard-to-reach crevices.
Black oystercatchers (Haematopus bachmani) are found in intertidal zones. Their long, strong beaks can be used for prying mussels and barnacles open and getting in to hard-to-reach crevices.
How many species can you count in this picture? We count at least nine!
A Western gull parent and chick sit over a tidepool. Tidepools provide food for a variety of avian species.
If you’re really lucky during tidepooling, you’ll get to see a species like this wine-plumed spiny dorid (Acanthodoris nanaimoensis) nudibranch. Nudibranchs are sea slugs that come in all colors and shapes.
If you’re really lucky during tidepooling, you’ll get to see a species like this wine-plumed spiny dorid (Acanthodoris nanaimoensis) nudibranch. Nudibranchs are sea slugs that come in all colors and shapes.

Health and safety

Tidepool etiquette

Resources for tidepooling:

Other spots to tidepool around Washington include:

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