There is nothing that can compare with an early morning walk along an ocean beach----especially, if one lives in a state that does not border any ocean shorelines! That is why I signed up for a Road Scholar program ( www.roadscholar.org ) program that involved visiting several of the barrier islands on the coast of Georgia, in the southern USA.
The first morning of the program involved visiting a beach on St. Simons Island, with a trained and experienced naturalist, pictured here. Georgia Graves leads Beach Walks on the Georgia barrier islands and you may contact her by phone at 912-266-2473 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Just minutes after we arrived at the beach, Georgia spotted this indentation in the sand, and drew a circle around it. She stuck her fingers down into the indented sand, and as if by magic, pulled out a live mollusk, called a whelk. I was impressed!
I was curious what Georgia carried in her basket, and one of the items was this clear dish, that she filled with sea water, and then placed various critters into it that she found along the beach. That way she was able to tell us about the animals, pass around the dish, and then return them to the ocean without harming them. Since I have had a life-long interest in marine biology, and even started out my freshman year in college as a marine biology major, I found this up close study of marine life fascinating!
There were several whelks along the beach, and Georgia is holding one that is designated as Georgia's "State Seashell"!
I encountered large jellyfish the size of hula hoops when scuba diving (which I carefully tried to avoid touching!), but I had not had the opportunity to photograph any of these smaller jelly fish that we encountered on our beach walk.
I was surprised when Georgia told us that these particular jelly fish were harmless to touch, and invited each of us to see what they felt like.
A very helpful aspect of this group beach walk was that Road Scholar provided each participant with sound amplification devices. This meant that we did not have to be extremely close to the naturalist, in order to hear what she was saying.
This photo shows the microphone that Georgia wore, as well as the over-the-ear device that each of us had, that enabled us to hear what she was saying.
In Arkansas, we grow cucumbers that are green; however, along the barrier islands, cucumbers are brown! That is because green cucumbers are plants, but this cucumber-looking thing is called a "Sea Cucumber", and it is an animal!
Georgia spotted a slight movement in the sand, and started on a frantic search to catch what was causing the movement.
We all had a good laugh watching her scurry about, but in the end, she caught her goal, which was a ghost crab.
Even in an area where there is seemingly nothing of interest, the naturalist taught us to observe the patterns in the sand. She pointed out that the variations in the colors of the wave patterns left by the shifting sand, was the result of different kinds of dissolved minerals that the ocean water flows through.
The biggest marine critters we saw on our beach walk were the horseshoe crabs; and we saw several of them!
Georgia fearlessly picked up one of the animals and pointed out its carapace, which is the hard outer shell that protects it. The mouth of the horseshoe crab is in the center of its five pairs of legs.
The horseshoe crab can use its long, straight tail to flip itself over, when it inadvertently gets turned upside down.
Although the habitat for horseshoe crabs is mostly in muddy bottoms and shallow ocean waters, they occasionally come on shore to mate. In most cases, the female is larger than the male.
The female will lay 60,000-120,000 eggs in batches of a few thousand at a time. Shore birds eat many of the eggs before they hatch.
The blood of horseshoe crabs is blue, because instead of hemoglobin to carry oxygen, they use hemocyanin, which contains Copper. Their blood also contains amebocytes to defend against pathogens. This characteristic is why the blood of live horseshoe crabs is "harvested" to produce Limulus amebocyte lysate, which is used to detect bacterial endotoxins, in medical applications. So if you have ever received TPN (total parenteral nutrition), blood transfusions, etc., there is a good chance that your product was tested for safety, using blood from a horseshoe crab!! How cool is that!
This "niche" market is very important to the medical field, and points out the importance of not letting any of God's creatures go into extinction! This includes that ugly-looking horseshoe crab! The story of the horseshoe crab is a good visual aid to help me remember my FBC First Place 4 Health ( www.FirstPlace4Health.com ) memory verse from Ecclesiastes 3:11, that says, "He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end." If God has made everything beautiful in its time, that includes me and the horseshoe crab, so that gives me "MILES OF SMILES"! Tricia