Plants and Animals of Sandy beaches
Two sand fleas are found on our beach: one is the light colored Large Beach Hopper and the other is the grayish or brownish Small Beach Hopper. The former resides deep in the sand during the day, and the latter hides in clumps of rotting seaweed.
Clams present in the sand are the small Bean Clam, sometimes seen by the hundreds, and the much larger Pismo Clam, which is usually buried. Fragments of other clams which may be found are the Broad Eared Scallop, Common Littleneck, Macoma, and the rock boring Piddock.
Crabs which may be present are the Common Sand Crab and, at very low tides, the much larger Spiny Sand Crab.
Empty tests (shells) of the Sand Dollar are often washed up on the beach, although the living animals are found only some distance from the shore, where the bottom is deep enough to protect them from wave action.
Also hidden beneath the sand is the red Beach Bloodworm. These creatures may be detected by the many small holes they leave on the surface of the sand.
Pieces of Giant Kelp are often washed up on the beach with their “leaves” and small attached bladders. Also washed up may be the remains of Elk Kelp, which has a long, whiplike stipe (stalk) terminating in a large, bulbous bladder with attached “horns.”
Many other plants and animals live along the shores of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. In order to learn more about them, the interested person would do well to start with the following recommended references:
Hedgepeth, Joel and Hinton, Sam. Common Seashore Life of Southern California, Naturegraph. 1961.
Hinton, Sam. Seashore Life of Southern California, U. C. Press. 1987.
Hubbs, Carl and Whitaker, Thomas, Editors. Torrey Pines State Reserve, Torrey Pines Association, 1972.
Next topic: Marine mammals