| Holdfast Hotel|
|After stormy weather and heavy seas, we love finding huge, tangled clumps of Bull Kelp, Nereocystis, freshly tossed up on our beach. We eagerly start picking up the bottom ends and looking for interesting animals that live in what we call the “Holdfast Hotel”. The holdfast (one scientific term that is descriptive) actually attaches the Bull Kelp to the sea floor. Many overlapping and interlocking root-like structures create nooks and crannies that become the rooms and hallways of the hotel. On the roof of the hotel is a long stem called a stipe that can be as long as 118 feet. This becomes the bullwhip that kids play with at the beach. At the top end of the stipe is a large, spherical float that contains as much as 10% of the very poisonous gas, carbon monoxide, as one of its buoyancy gasses. The float supports many long and olive-green blades that can be as long as 13 feet. For good photosynthesis, the blades are suspended at the surface of the ocean for the greatest exposure to sunlight. The blades churn out building blocks made by photosynthesis and send them down the stipe for enlarging and remodeling the Holdfast Hotel. |
The Holdfast Hotel may be luxuriously landscaped with bright red blades of algae and pink coralline algae. The coralline algae are toughened with calcium. The hotel gardeners need to continuously sharpen their pruning shears when trimming those tough coralline algae!
Lounging on some of the balconies of the hotel are resident yellow bread crumb sponges, some colonial moss animals, the Bryozoa, and bright orange, stalked colonies of Hydrozoa. These guests like to spend a lot of time in the freshest of seawater. The sponge moves water through its body to get its food. The many members of the colonial Bryozoa and Hydrozoa use their tentacles to grab food from the seawater. Perhaps these colonial residents pay extra for all of the additional occupants in a room.
The hotel has a large live-in staff and practices progressive hiring policies by employing some animals with disabilities. Brittle stars clean up detritus and remove small animals found in rooms and hallways, but they easily become disabled by loosing their brittle, delicate arms. Fortunately, they rapidly regenerate their arms and get back on the job. Small snails work as housekeepers sliding about the hotel scraping up algae. Peanut worms (phylum Sipuncula) also help with the algae by extending a long tube and vacuuming up cells. Afterwards, the vacuum hose can be stored away by being pulled back into the worm.
A number of Arthropods reside at the hotel. Small amphipods scamper about while hyperactive caprillids continuously bow and waving their large feeding arms. Some of the residents are very secretive and never leave their rooms for meals. Sea cucumbers have tentacles that they use to catch food suspended in the seawater flowing through the hotel. Terebellid worms extend their long, sticky tentacles out their doors and reel in their dinner.
Other residents such as sea stars, ribbon worms (Phylum Nemertea) and Polycheate worms move about the hotel and may tire of their décor and change rooms. They may dine in the hotel restaurant or order room service, but always insist on the freshest of food.
There is a dark side to the Holdfast Hotel. Some staff have mysteriously disappeared without claiming their checks, and some guests have left without paying their bill. These strange disappearances remain as unsolved mysteries; however, all the missing animals were last seen in the vicinity of a sea star, ribbon worm or Polycheate worm! Although these particular guests are notorious predators, there is not enough evidence to arrest and convict them.
When the hotel is violently dislodged and thrown onshore, guests and staff have to abandon the hotel or die there as the hotel begins to dry out. Often, the more mobile animals successfully escape, but brittle stars move too slowly, and their mummified bodies often can be found in the ruins of the Holdfast Hotel.
If you take a few minutes from your beach walk to explore the Holdfast Hotel, it is amazing how much life can be held in your hand.
Contact: Diane and Dave Bilderback
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