Seashore Sightings

Ilike looking at tide pools and watching the little critters within carry on about their business; it’s one of my favorite things about being a coastal dweller. I can even name a few of the inhabitants in the tiny watery worlds-sea urchins, teeny fishes, and itty-bitty crabs. And with that I have been content. That is, until I came across Ian Sheldon’s recently published book, Seashore of Southern California, an easy-to-use guide to “171 weird and wonderful seashore species,” and my vast ignorance of oceanic life was revealed.

Sheldon covers everything from mammals to sea slugs to snails to seaweeds and algae to bivalves (which I now know are clams and mussels). Descriptions of the species are clear and interesting; Sheldon tells where one is most likely to come across said species, even offering hints as to how to coax timid fish into the open. For example, if you want to see a longjaw mudsucker, “be sure to peep into small burrows where it might have retreated for cover,” Sheldon writes. To view a rockpool blenny, “brush your hand through some seaweed to see if you can flush a blenny or two out of hiding.”

Accompanying the descriptions of each seashore critter are wonderful detailed illustrations-also by Sheldon, who is an artist, naturalist, and educator-that enable you to recognize the seaside beastie when you happen upon it. Sheldon also includes a fact box for each species containing information such as its range, zone, and habitat.

Some of the fun of this guide is simply reading the names of various sea creatures. For example, there are fish called the roughjaw frogfish (say that three times fast!) and wooly sculpin; snails given the whimsical moniker the tinted wentletrap and the large coffee bean; sea cucumbers named warty stichopus (that’s Mr. Warty Stichopus, to you), jellyfish named sea gooseberry, and seaweed referred to as feather boa.

Seashore of Southern California is great for all ages and worth taking along the next time you visit the tide pools or take a seaside stroll. Visit to buy the book.

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