Join me in the cold, dark, life-sustaining NE Pacific Ocean to discover the great beauty, mystery and fragility hidden there.

Posts tagged ‘marine biodiversity’

Get Back I Tell You!

Here’s a post about anemone enemies (say that 5 times).

See those really long tentacles extending from the Short Plumose Anemones in the following image? These are “catch tentacles” that can extend to be up to four times longer than the feeding tentacles.

Short Plumose Anemones reach around with these specialized, extendable tentacles and THEY ATTACK if they come in contact with a different species of anemone, or others of the same species who do not have the same DNA (are not their clones).

The tip of the specialized tentacle breaks off and kills the cells in the spot where they touch their anemone enemy. Apparently this can even kill the target anemone. Short Plumose Anemones on the outside of a group of related clones are more likely to use / develop these specialized tentacles.

Short Plumose Anemones AND Giant Plumose Anemones also have nematocysts (stinging cells in their feeding tentacles) AND they have acontia. See following image. These are defensive strands filled with stinging cells that are EJECTED from their mouths or through the anemones’ bodies when threatened or stressed. These threads extend far beyond the anemone and provide longer distance defence than the stinging cells.

None of the stinging cells of local anemone species impact we humans. But how I wish I had some acontia! Yes, I have defence envy. 🙂

From Invertebrates of the Salish Sea: ” Animals on the border of a clone often develop up to 19 “catch tentacles”, which generally occur close to the mouth.  These tentacles, which are larger and more opaque than the other tentacles, have special nematocysts and are unusually extensible (they can become up to 12 cm long or more).  They probe the area around the anemone.  While they do not respond to food, they DO fire when they contact either A. elegantissima [Aggregating Anemone] or another clone of M. senile.  When it fires, the tip of the tentacle breaks off and sticks to the victim, which may retract and bend away.  Tissue damage can generally later be seen in the stung area, and the attacked individual may even die.”

Image is of Giant Plumose Anemones = Metridium farcimen to 1 metre tall. Short Plumose Anemones are Metridium senile to only 30 cm tall and their crown is not as lobed. This photo is the image for this month’s WILD Calendar.

Photos taken in Kwakwaka’wakw Territory near Telegraph Cove, ©Jackie Hildering

Great White! Not what you think . . .

Great White!
Not quite what you were expecting?  

These are Great White Dorids. Yes, they are a species of nudibranch and the individuals featured here are mating, prowling for sponges AND succeeding in laying their astounding egg masses.

Mating Great White Dorids: Reproduction of nudibranch species is always right-side-to-right-side; attached by structures called “gonophores”. As reciprocal hermaphrodites, both parents become inseminated and lay eggs.

EACH dot you see in the egg masses (photos below) contains 8 to 12 fertilized eggs. They are laid by both parents because it makes a lot of sense to be a hermaphrodite when you are a sea slug and your eggs hatch into the sea. More fertilized eggs = more chances of some young surviving.

Even after so many years, I find the intricacy and diversity of sea slug egg masses something of jaw-dropping wonder. Not such a good thing when you are supposed to hold a regulator in your mouth while diving. 🙂

Scientific name of this species is Doris odhneri. They can be up to 20 cm long and their egg masses can be at least that size too.

Body design is classic for the sub-classification of nudibranchs that is “the dorids”. Those tufts on their hind ends are the gills and the projections on their heads (which all nudibranchs have) are the sensory rhinophores (rhino = nose). It’s how they smell their way around to find mates, food and whatever else is important in their world.

Notice in the next photo how dorid species are able to retract their gills when disturbed by the likes of an annoying underwater photographer.

Gills retracted.

Amazing too to think of the importance of smell in the sea isn’t it? Why is the individual in the following photo reared up like that? I believe it allows a better position to smell / detect the chemicals of food and/or a mate. Maybe they are even releasing pheromones? Note that is me musing. There is no research I know of to support this.

Same individual as in the first photo in this blog. I asked super sea slug expert, Dave Behrens, about this behaviour years ago and his response was: “I will agree the “rearing” is unusual in this group of dorids. Rearing is common amoung phanerobranch dorids (those that cannot withdraw their gill) . . . Although we will never know for sure, the behavior is thought to be a way for the slug to elevate itself above the substrate in search of chemical clues for its favorite prey.”

In featuring this species, the Great White Dorid, you see that not all nudibranch species are super colourful. But they are all super GREAT.


Species is also referenced as the GIANT White Dorid or Snow White Dorid, or White Dorid or White-Knight Nudibranch . . . etc. Known range is from southern Alaska to California but it’s a species I don’t see often where I dive around northeastern Vancouver Island. 

Another perspective on a Great White Dorids astonishing egg mass.
Prowling for sponges, a mate, or both. 🙂
Poor photo (because my camera housing had moisture in it that condensed in front of the lens) BUT this image shows a Great White Dorid laying an egg masss. It’s one of the times I caught a Great White Dorid in the act whereby I could know what the egg masses look like for this species (albeit that there are some closely related species of nudibranch that lay very similar looking egg masses).

All photos taken in Kwakwaka’wakw Territory, NE Vancouver Island ©Jackie Hildering.


WILD 2020

It’s August 1st – the first day of a new month and how it makes me smile to think of people around the world flipping to a new page in my WILD calendar.

I’ve made these calendars for more than 10 years now with the intent of creating further awareness about the diversity and fragility of life hidden in our cold, dark, life-sustaining seas.

Thank you again to all who put these calendars into the world and what that might mean for education, connection and conservation.

Below, see my images for the 2020 WILD Calendar. The selection process for which photos end up in the calendar includes voting on social media. But I also reflect on the biodiversity that must be represented i.e it can’t be all whales, fish or nudibranchs.

And yes, I softly say, the 2020 calendars are now for sale at this link.

For the wild  . .  .

Above: Cover of my 2020 WILD Calendar.

Above: January image, 2020 WILD Calendar. Caption is: ” Above all: What is hoped with these efforts, is that we move further out of the dark in understanding our marine neighbours. May we look at our dark ocean and envision colour, fragility, and biodiversity rather than having a bias to thinking there is more life in warmer waters.Thereby, undervaluing and disconnecting from what is so extraordinary and precious.This cold ocean is dark because there is more plankton = more fuel for the ecosystem = more life, and many giants.The life in this image includes Giant Plumose Anemones,Yellowtail Rockfish, Keyhole Limpet, Red Soft Coral, Crimson Anemones, etc!

Above: February image, 2020 WILD Calendar. Caption is: “Tiny predator: Diamondback Nudibranch,Tritonia festiva to 10 cm.Feeds on octocoral species like Red Soft Coral.See the beautiful “frontal veil” on the right?This is extremely sensitive.Allows them to find food and detect if it is worth the effort i.e.“used for locating expanded polyps of their prey and for carefully positioning the mouth over these in preparation for a surprise attack.The ensuing attack is swift, as the nudibranch lunges into the colony and bites off polyps before they can contract into the protective cover. . . will NOT attack contracted colonies.” (Source: Sea Slug Forum).”

Above: March image, 2020 WILD Calendar. Caption is: “Sea Otter in the rain: Sea Otters were completely wiped out in British Columbia by 1929. From 1969 to 1972, ~89 were translocated from SE Alaska to the outer coast of Vancouver Island. Now there are more than 6,800 off the coast of BC. Even with super dense fur, they need to eat up to a quarter of their body mass/day to survive in the cold Ocean. This leads to some of us perceiving them to be competitors who eat “too much”. Importance includes being a keystone species; maintaining kelp forests by eating the urchins that graze on kelp.”

Above: April image, 2020 WILD Calendar. Caption is: “One Ocean: No matter where you are on Earth, you are near the Ocean. No matter how far you travel, you never left. The Ocean is on our mountains as glaciers; it flows through our streams; it builds our trees and it comes out of our taps. Indeed, the water on the planet now is that which was here even before there was life on Earth, perpetually morphing between gas, liquid and solid states. Stream is sea. Sea is stream. All life on Earth connected by Ocean.”

Above: May image, 2020 WILD Calendar. Caption is: “Remarkable reproduction: This tiny Proliferating Anemone expels fertilized eggs within a bath of mucus and she may have fertilized the eggs herself! Cilia move the mucus-covered eggs down the column where they become attached, enfolded, and will hatch and benefit from the protection of Mom’s tentacles for about 3 to 4 months, till siblings make them shuffle on. In this species, the young on the column can be of different ages (Epiactis prolifera to 3 cm).There is a larger species which also has babies on the column but these hatch inside the mother (Brooding Anemone, Epiactis lisbethae).”

Above: June image, 2020 WILD Calendar. Caption is: “One family: Ripple (A43) born in 1981 to the threatened Northern Resident population (inshore fish-eating Orca who stay with their families their whole lives). Knowledge about her family, the A23 matriline, includes that at least 3 were hunted and captured (2 released after capture but Corky has been captive since Dec 1969) and at least another 3 have been hit by boats (2 survived).They were shot at too when that was our way and we did not understand how few there were and that there are 4 distinct populations off BC. Greatest threats now are the synergistic effects of prey availability / disturbance / contaminants.”

Above: July image, 2020 WILD Calendar. Caption is: “In the forest: Bull Kelp swaying in the current, sun dancing down from above, everything in motion. Nereocystis luetkeana to 36 m and can grow up to 10 cm/day to better photosynthesize nearer the sun. So many reasons to value the kelp forests – oxygen, food, habitat, carbon dioxide buffering, navigation aid . . . and being so very, very beautiful.The Ocean’s algae produce 50% or more of your oxygen.”

Above: August image, 2020 WILD Calendar. Caption is: “Orange Peel Nudibranch: Take a moment to think about it? While you are up here walking around, doing what you do, this is one of the thousands of extraordinary species crawling, swimming, swaying in the dark, rich NE Pacific Ocean.The Orange Peel Nudibranch is one of the world’s largest sea slugs at up to 30 cm (Tochuina gigantea). It’s such an appropriate common name for the species. This individual is amid Short Plumose Anemones (Metridium senile).”

Above: September image, 2020 WILD Calendar. Caption is: “Trap-Feeding: This Humpback Whale is “Moonstar” (BCY0768).Through the work of our Marine Education and Research Society, we know that he was born in 2008 to “Slash” (BCY0177) who has very serious scarring from a boat propeller. He is one of the first Humpbacks we ever documented using a novel strategy we have dubbed trap-feeding.When juvenile herring are in less dense concentrations, and are being pursued by diving birds, some Humpbacks have learned to hang at the surface like this and trap the fish. See www.mersociety.org for our published research.”

Above: October image, 2020 WILD Calendar. Caption is: “Along for the ride: Cross Jelly covered with amphipod hitchhikers. Hyperiid amphipods are tiny marine crustaceans and they may have species-specific relationships with jellies. Includes that they may parasitize the jelly, embedding in its tissue.These appear to be atop the jelly, certainly well-positioned to get good access to plankton snacks. Plankton = all the “drifting” organisms, from microscopic larvae to huge jellies. Cross Jelly is Mitrocoma cellularia, diameter to 9 cm.”

Above: November image, 2020 WILD Calendar. Caption is: “At the haul out: Steller Sea Lions males up to ~1,100 kg; females ~300 kg. Can be very difficult to discern juvenile males from females. Males sexually mature at ~age 7. Continue to grow to ~age 10. The big boys compete for females at rookery sites further to the north on BC’s Central Coast. Size needed to posture, fight and have an energy store if needing to defend territory. Eumetopias jubatus is a species of Special Concern in Canada.”

Above: December image, 2020 WILD Calendar. Caption is: ” Let there be light: See the jellyfish, and the trees? The algae and the anemones? Feel the connection between it all? “Our destiny as a species is interlocked with the destiny of the sea . . . .” (Quote: James Cameron). No divide. Directly connected. Directly dependent. Directly empowered to care more, and consume less. Power to you for caring, understanding, and undertaking action as you do.”

Above: Back cover, 2020 WILD Calendar. Striped Sea Star, Creeping Pedal Sea Cucumbers and so much more. And, for the first time ever in my calendars, there is a picture of my head. 🙂

Above: Sample of what the month pages look like in the WILD Calendar.


These are large calendars printed on sturdy paper, coil bound and with a hole to hang them.

They are 33 x 26.5 cm closed and 33 x 53 cm open (13 x 10.5″ closed /13 x 21″ open).

They are mailed in biodegradable, transparent plastic envelopes.

For information on purchasing on line, please click this link. 

They are also available at:

  • Alert Bay – Culture Shock Gallery
  • Port Hardy – West Coast Community Craft Shop
  • Port McNeill – Island Dawn’s
  • Campbell River – Campbell River Museum
  • Squamish – Adventure Centre


What’s At Stake – Images Speaking Louder Than Words

Three minutes of images speaking louder than words . . .

This short slide show of my images testifies to the astonishing marine biodiversity of Northern Vancouver Island and what is put at risk with projects like the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project which would bring super-tanker traffic of toxic bitumen and condensate to B.C.’s fragile coast, and to the waters on which we depend for oxygen, food, buffering of climate change gases, aesthetics and so much more.

I have submitted this slide show for inclusion on “Hope, the Whale”, a 25′ whale sculpture being brought to the Vancouver Enbridge public hearings (January 14 to 18, 2013) “to symbolize the expansive and growing community of people with a vision of an oil-free coast in BC. The sculpture is designed to be a welcoming, collaborative, visual, interactive and peaceful approach to supporting a healthy environment. The whale will amplify our a collective messages of hope and a vision for a healthy ocean, water, land, communities, green economy, cultures and people.” See this link to contribute your message.

For more information, see my testimony to the Joint Review Panel included in my blog item “Super Natural or Super Tanker?” at this link.