Last Tuesday we went to Cattle Point to catch the low tide at 6 in the morning. We were all a little bit groggy from the early hour but the morning chill and the variety of the organisms inhabiting the intertidal zone were more than sufficient to spring us into alertness. Emily turned over a rock to reveal little critters scrambling to get away from the light of the flashlights (the sun had yet to rise so we were using lights). We also discovered some mussels grouped in tight circles and, of course, the omnipresent barnacle. The mussels were being monitored by a temperature gauge that was affixed to the rock by what looked like silly putty, but in reality acted as a layer of insulation for the button-like instruments. They looked like the tiny circular batteries for watches and exuded the same silvery metallic sheen. Moose explained to some of us the rationale behind gathering data from spots like this year after year after year. Apparently mussels are subject to high environmental stress from the changing temperatures and endure varying conditions that would kill most other organisms. Interesting fact: the mussels of the Northwest are actually subject to higher heat than the mussels of Southern California. This is because the high tides in Socal come during mid-day, keeping the mussels wet and cool during the hottest part of the day. The Northwest is the opposite, and the low tides during mid-day expose the mussels to high heat and drying factors during the day. Apparently the data collected over the years is matched with mortality rates among mussels and analyzed. Mussels are amazingly resilient creatures. A short 3 hours outside and I was shivering in what was probably somewhere around 40 degree weather. They routinely survive exposure to temperatures much lower. My Northface jacket just wasn’t cutting it. Nature has got human technology beat. Its like the site that Ross was showing us today on bio-mimicry. Human hubris likes to pretend that we’ve moved past nature, conquered or tamed it, but we’re still infants in the biological timescale.
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