The next time you visit a boat dock, and you want to see some new organisms, lay down on your belly and look to see what is attached along the side of the dock. Throughout Barnstable, there are a variety of colorful plant-like structures creating small ecosystems for small invertebrates like shrimp, crabs, and scallops. Surprisingly, they aren’t plants and they are a mixture of native and nonnative species. One of the most common species found are tunicates, or as they are more commonly called sea squirts. They vary in shape and sizes; some look like clubs the size of a finger, others are flatter and rubbery and can even have fun colored star shapes on them. These are often confused with sea sponges, an animal that is in a completely different phylum from the tunicates. Sea sponges are generally more porous and are softer to the touch when squeezed. What may be harder to find are the sea anemones! Cousins to the jelly fish, they have a cylindrical muscular base and tentacles on top making it look like it has hair. They use their tentacles to help them interact with their surrounding environment whether it be for hiding or hunting. Now that you know some new organisms, get out there and start exploring!
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