Between a rock and a sandy place

I flipped not my  lid, but a rock on a rock platform this morning on the coast in northern New South Wales, for International Rock-flipping Day (this year 11 September 2011). Here’s what was underneath.

Peanut worm (centre) in its usual habitat, on sand or gravel under a rock

I had to move this sipunculid worm, the peanut worm (Phascolosoma noduliferum), as the tide was sloshing it about, making it difficult to photograph. This one is about 3 cm in length.

Peanut worm (the mouth is at the bottom of the photo)

It’s actually a bit scrunched up above. I’ve seen them get really thin really fast. This one then stretched out and quickly everted a section at the mouth end, adding a good centimetre. Apparently this part, technically called an ‘introvert’, has rows of little hooks. There’s a mouth at the end.

Peanut worm with protruded front section (right)

Peanut worms hoover up sand, absorbing the organic material in it. I put it back in the water quickly as I didn’t want to disturb it too much.

Another relatively large thing revealed by moving the rock was this sea cucumber (Australostichopus mollis?) …

Sea cucumber

There are some really fabulous photos of many spectacular sea cucumbers here. They make this one look very ordinary. Sea cucumbers also hoover sandy bottoms, and are often found under rocks or ledges as protection for their very soft bodies.

Lastly, sharing the sand with these was (I think) a blenny – but that’s as far as my ID goes, I’m afraid. I’ve looked in various books and on the net, but I’m not confident of getting further than that. You can see sensory ‘feelers’ (I’m sure there is a technical term for them) on its nose in the first shot. The calcareous worm tubes above it are those of Galeolaria caespitosa.

You can just see the yellow sensory feelers between the eyes and slightly below them

The blenny moved away under from the ledge

Of course, I oh so carefully put the peanut worm back and ever so gently lowered the rock back into the same position. Hopefully these sort of disturbances don’t affect the animals too much. But I always feel slightly guilty for worrying them.

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9 Responses to Between a rock and a sandy place

  1. International rock-flipping day? This is the first I’ve heard of it, thanks! You made some fun finds.

  2. This was the first post for Rock Flipping Day. Over here, we’re barely 5 minutes into Sunday!

    Patricia, you’ve still got time to join in on the fun. The details are in the post Joy links to up at the top.

  3. I forgot to add; those are great photos, especially the peanut worm with the mouth and all the hooks!

  4. marti says:

    Peanut Worm is a new one on me.

    I really had a long day and only managed a wee spider just before sunset.

    Excellent pics of the blennie

  5. I just realized, a few minutes ago, where I got the title of my last post, “Between a rock and a dry place”. I’d seen your version here, just a couple of days ago. Sorry for more-or-less copying!

  6. Pingback: International Rock-Flipping Day 2011: the trove

  7. Kathy Pearce says:

    You photos are really good, Joy. Thanks for the interesting text, as always helping us to understand that little bit more.

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