Mostly what we see at the beach is sugar sand and water. And lush, tropical vegetation. Hibiscus. Sea oats. We don’t think much about the wildlife there, except the people maybe. Another story for another time! And yet, there are plenty of critters there to be found. And they’ve been there, calling it home, a lot longer than humans have.
Everyone likes to collect seashells although sometimes they are hard to find. But the shells are usually the discards of living creatures moving into bigger accommodations or the remains of dearly departed sea life. Let’s think about what else is out there, if we dare.
In third grade I read a book about monsters of the deep. Something called a stonefish stuck in my head and for years I wouldn’t go in the water without shoes on my feet. Hard to swim, but better that than to step on a deadly poisonous fish. Since then I’ve tried to block out what’s really out there.
I’ve been to the beach and seen schools of little fish swimming near the shore. And a few bigger fish not far behind. I didn’t see the even bigger fish that were surely nearby. Or the sharks. I have seen lots of dolphins swimming along the shore. Everyone oohs and aaahs over them. Cute. And harmless. Some beaches are turtle nesting sanctuaries and if you’re really lucky you might get to see the migration of the little fellas from the dunes to the water. Some beaches have lots of shells, others not so many. And once in a while you might run into nastiness like jellyfish, or an overabundance of seaweed. We went on one trip to a place we called the seaweed beach because it was everywhere. Seemed like it got into your pores. Yuk.
Here at Hilton head they have sand dollars. Seems like you can hardly move your hand across the sand under the water without coming up with a handful of sand dollars. They are soft and hairy when they’re alive. And you can’t keep them.
The other thing we’ve seen a lot of are horseshoe crabs. Now there is a throw back to the dinosaur age! Really. They have been around for 450 million years. And haven’t changed a bit in that time. They are often called living fossils. The ones we see here at the beach are all dead. The shells are empty although you may find some legs floating around here and there. The shells wash up on the beach and it’s hard to tell if anyone is at home. Unless you flip over the shell. Yesterday we didn’t see any, but the day the hurricane passed through, and again today with raging wind and boiling surf, there were plenty of them. I’d take one home as a souvenir, but I’m smart enough to know that after it’s been out of the water for a few hours, or days, its gonna stink like a big dead fish!
There are other things out there. I know that. And the water here is cloudy with sand so you can’t see your feet. Fishing boats pass by not too far in the distance and some folks fish from the beach. I don’t see any fins. Cowabunga!!
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