Sunday, July 23, 2017

Children's Museum Critters: An Inventory of Invertebrates

Viva la baby claw!
It seems like we're pulling up all sorts of fun critters every few minutes over at the Children's Museum. It's been so fun to show the kids what we've found, and to use our resources to learn about the mystery creatures we aren't able to identify. While we have caught a number of fish, I think it's fun to take a look at the invertebrates we are able to put in our touch tanks.

Our most frequent catch are green crabs, an invasive crab from the Baltic Sea that's made itself quite at home in Boston Harbor. Like lizards and sea stars, green crabs can regenerate lost limbs! You never know when you're going to find a crab with a missing leg or claw; it's not uncommon for us to pull up crabs with no claws at all (fondly dubbed "a defenseless" by the youth staff)! A crab in the middle of the regenerative process can be identified by its smaller claw or leg, which we affectionately refer to as the "baby claw".

Every once in a while, we'll find sea squirts, formally known as club tunicates. These squishy little plants are an invasive species hailing from the seas of Asia, and will grow on just about anything that doesn't move. They're bumpy to the touch, and if you hold one, you'll notice they're quite squishy; if you squeeze a sea squirt between your fingers, it will squirt out water (hence the nickname sea squirt)! Essentially, these guys are nature's water guns, and are always fun to use to catch an unsuspecting victim off guard.
Grumpy old man or the face of a spider crab? You decide.

My personal favorite invertebrate we've caught is a spider crab, which, although is more frightening looking than the green crabs, is a much more gentle companion. So far we've caught two spider crabs, and we've gotten mixed reviews from the kids at the museum. I don't know if it's the long, spindly legs or the fuzzy brown algae that grows on their shells, but something about these crabs puts some kids off. Personally, I think they're pretty cute; the tip of their shell comes to a point in front of their eyes, and I think it gives them a likeness to a grumpy old man. Unfortunately, we don't find spider crabs as often as we find green crabs, but it's very exciting when they do decide to crawl into our traps.

We've had such a wide array of visitors at the museum, both human and sea creature, and I can't wait to see what we find next!

Your invertebrate identifier,

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