The Sea-beach at Ebb-tide / A Guide to the Study of the Seaweeds and the Lower Animal Life Found Between Tide-marks

The Sea-beach at Ebb-tide / A Guide to the Study of the Seaweeds and the Lower Animal Life Found Between Tide-marks

Augusta Foote Arnold
Augusta Foote Arnold

Author: Arnold, Augusta Foote, 1844-1903
Marine animals
Marine plants
Seashore biology
Marine algae
The Sea-beach at Ebb-tide
A Guide to the Study of the Seaweeds and the Lower Animal Life Found Between Tide-marks




And hath been tutor’d in the rudiments
Of many desperate studies.

Copyright, 1901, by
The Century Co.
Published May, 1901
The De Vinne Press.


This volume is designed to be an aid to the amateur collector and student of the organisms, both animal and vegetable, which are found upon North American beaches. In it are described many invertebrates and some of the more notable varieties of seaweeds, and each individual is given its proper place in the latest classification.
The technicality of classification or scientific grouping may at first seem repellent, but it in reality makes the study of these objects more simple; and a systematic arrangement has been adopted in the belief that it is the easiest as well as the only satisfactory way of becoming familiar with the organisms described. Without it a very confused picture of separate individuals would be presented to the mind, and a book like the present one would become a mere collection of isolated scraps of information. Morphology, or the study of structure, has been touched upon just enough to show the objects from the biologist’s point of view and to enable the observer to go a little beyond the bare learning of names.
Scientific names have been used from necessity, for the plants and animals of the beach are so infrequently observed, except by scientific people, that but few of them have common names; and, as a matter of fact, the reader will find that a scientific name is as easily remembered as a common one. Technical phraseology has, however, been avoided as much as possible, even at the expense of conciseness and precision; where it has been used, care has been taken to explain the terms so that their meaning will be plain to every one. A general glossary has been omitted, but the technical terms used have been indexed. The illustrations will bear the use of a hand-glass, and this will often bring out details which cannot well be seen by the unaided eye.
The systematic table of the marine algæ, as given in Part I, and followed in the text, will be of use to collectors who wish to make herbaria. In order to name and group specimens such a guide is necessary. Should specific names lead to embarrassment, many of them can be neglected, for the names of genera are often a sufficient distinction.
Since so many species of invertebrates are found on the beach that a complete enumeration of them is impracticable, only the most conspicuous ones have been selected for description in Part II; but the attempt has been made to designate the various classes and orders with sufficient clearness to enable the collector to identify the objects commonly found on the shore, and to follow the subject further, if he so desires, in technical books.
It is hoped that this book will suggest a new interest and pleasure to many, that it will encourage the pastime of collecting and classifying, and that it will serve as a practical guide to a better acquaintance with this branch of natural history, without necessitating serious study. Marine organisms are interesting acquaintances when once introduced, and the real purpose of the author is to present, to the latent naturalist, friends whom he will enjoy.
Grateful acknowledgment is here made to the following persons who have kindly assisted and advised the author and have also extended valued courtesies to her in the preparation of this book: Smith Ely Jelliffe, M.D., Ph.D.; Herbert M. Richards, A.B., Ph.D., Professor of Botany in Barnard College; Marshall A. Howe, A.B., Ph.D.; the Rev. George A. Holst; the Long Island Historical Society of Brooklyn for the use of its fine herbarium, containing the collections of Mr. John Hooper, Mr. A. R. Young, and others, from which most of the illustrations of algæ in this book were photographed; Miss Toedtleberg, Librarian of the Long Island Historical Society; Miss Ingalls, in charge of the Museum of the Long Island Historical Society; Dr. Theodore Gill; James A. Benedict, Ph.D., Assistant Curator of Marine Invertebrates in the Smithsonian Institution; Miss Mary J. Rathbun, second Assistant Curator of Marine Invertebrates in the Smithsonian Institution; Miss Harriet Richardson; and especially to Mr. John B. Henderson, Jr.

Thanks, also, are due to Messrs. Macmillan & Co. for permission to use cuts from the “Cambridge Natural History,” Parker and Haswell’s “Zoölogy”, and Murray’s “Introduction to the Study of Seaweeds”; to Swan Sonnenschein & Co. for the use of cuts from Sedgwick’s “Student’s Text-book of Zoölogy”; to Wilhelm Engelmann for a cut from “Die natürlichen Pflanzenfamilien” of Engler and Prantl; to Little, Brown & Co. for permission to reproduce illustrations from Agassiz’s “Contributions to the Natural History of the United States”; to Henry Holt & Co. for a cut from McMurrich’s “Invertebrate Morphology”; to Houghton, Mifflin & Co. for cuts from the “Riverside Natural History” and Agassiz’s “Seaside Studies in Natural History”; to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for the use of illustrations from Verrill’s “Report upon the Invertebrate Animals of Vineyard Sound and the Adjacent Waters,” Gould’s “Invertebrata of Massachusetts” (ed. Binney), and certain fisheries reports; and to the United States government for illustrations taken from Bulletin 37 of the Smithsonian Institution and from reports of the United States Fish Commission.


I Signs on the Beach 1
II Collecting 6
III Classification 19
IV Animal Life in its Lowest Forms 21
V Distribution of Animal Life in the Sea 23
VI Some Botanical Facts about Algæ 25
VII Naming of Plants 28
VIII Distribution of Algæ 30
IX Some Peculiar and Interesting Varieties of Algæ 32
X Uses of Algæ 37
XI Collecting at Bar Harbor 40
Marine Algæ
I Blue-Green Seaweeds (Cyanophyceæ) 47
Grass-Green Seaweeds (Chlorophyceæ) 47
II Olive-Green and Brown Seaweeds (Phæophyceæ) 61
III Red Seaweeds (Rhodophyceæ or Florideæ) 75
Marine Invertebrates
I Porifera (Sponges) 99
II Cœlenterata (Polyps) 111
III Worms (Platyhelminthes, Nemathelminthes, Annulata) 159
IV Molluscoida 187
V Echinodermata 199
VI Arthropoda 237
VII Mollusca 299
VIII Chordata 471
Index 479


In vain through every changeful year
  Did nature lead him as before;
    A primrose by a river’s brim,
    A yellow primrose was to him,
  And it was nothing more.
At noon, when by the forest’s edge
  He lay beneath the branches high,
    The soft blue sky did never melt
    Into his heart; he never felt
  The witchery of the soft blue sky.

To him who in the love of Nature holds
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks
A various language.



The sea-shore, with its stretches of sandy beach and rocks, seems, at first sight, nothing but a barren and uninteresting waste, merely the natural barrier of the ocean. But to the observant eye these apparently desolate reaches are not only teeming with life; they are also replete with suggestions of the past. They are the pages of a history full of fascination for one who has learned to read it.
In this history even the grains of sand have a part. Though so humble now, they once formed the rocky barriers of the shore. They stood as do the rocks of to-day, defiant and seemingly everlasting, but the fury of the sea, which knows no invincible adversary, has laid them low. Every coast-line shows the destructive effects of the sea, for the bays and coves, the caves at the bases of the cliffs, the buttresses, stocks, needles, and skerries, are the work of the waves. And this work is constantly going on.

Even a blind man could not stand long upon a shingly beach without knowing that the sea was busily at work. Every wave that rolls in from the open ocean hurls the pebbles up the slope of the beach, and then as soon as the wave has broken and the water has dispersed, these pebbles come rattling down with the currents that sweep back to the sea. The clatter of the beach thus tells us plainly that as the stones are being dragged up and down they are constantly knocked against each other; and it is evident that by such rough usage all [pg002] angular fragments of rock will soon have their corners rounded off and become rubbed into the form of pebbles. As these pebbles are rolled to and fro upon the beach they get worn smaller and smaller, until at length they are reduced to the state of sand. Although this sand is at first coarse, it gradually becomes finer and finer as surely as though it were ground in a mill; and ultimately it is carried out to sea as fine sediment and laid down upon the ocean floor. [1]

[1] Huxley.
The story of the sands is not only one of the conflict of the sea and rocks; it is also a story of the winds. It is the winds that have rescued them from the waves and driven them about, sifting and assorting them, arranging them in graceful forms, and often heaping them up into dunes which, until fastened by vegetation, are themselves ever moved onward by the same force, sometimes burying fertile lands, trees, and even houses in their march. The sands, moreover, are in turn themselves destructive agents, to whose power the many fragments which strew the beach and dunes bear ample witness. The knotty sticks so commonly seen on the beach are often the hearts of oak- or cedar-trees from which the tiny crystals of sand have slowly cut away their less solid outer growth. Everything, in fact, upon the sands is “beach-worn,” even to the window-glass of life-saving stations, which is frequently so ground that it loses its transparency in a single storm.
The beach is also a vast sarcophagus holding myriads of the dead. “If ghosts be ever laid, here lie ghosts of creatures innumerable, vexing the mind in the attempt to conceive them.” And there are certain sands which may be said to sing their requiem, the so-called musical sands, like the “Singing Beach” at Manchester-by-the-Sea, which emit sounds when struck or otherwise disturbed. On some beaches these sounds resemble rumbling, on others hooting; sometimes they are bell-like and even rhythmical. The cause of this sonorous character is not definitely known, but it is possibly due to films of compressed gases which separate each grain as with a cushion, and the breaking of which [pg003] causes, in the aggregate, considerable vibrations. Such sands are not uncommon, having been recorded in many places, and they exist probably in many others where they have escaped observation. They may be looked for above the water-line, where the sand is dry and clean.
We have to do, however, in this volume, not with the history of the past, nor with the action of physical forces, but with the life of the present, and to find this, in its abundance, one must go down near the margin of the water, where the sands are wet. There is no solitude here; the place is teeming with living things. As each wave retreats, little bubbles of air are plentiful in its wake. Underneath the sand, where each bubble rose, lives some creature, usually a mollusk, perhaps the razor-shell Solen ensis. By the jet of water which spurts out of the sand, the common clam Mya arenaria reveals the secret of its abiding-place. A curious groove or furrow here and there leads to a spot where Polynices heros has gone below; and the many shells scattered about, pierced with circular holes, tell how Polynices and Nassa made their breakfast and their dinner. Only the lifting of a shovelful of sand at the water’s edge is needed to disclose the populous community of mollusks, worms, and crustaceans living at our feet, just out of sight.
Even the tracks and traces of these little beings are full of information. What may be read in the track of a bird on the sand is thus described by a noted ornithologist:

Here are foot-notes again, this time of real steps from real feet. . . . The imprints are in two parallel lines, an inch or so apart; each impression is two or three inches in advance of the next one behind; none of them are in pairs, but each one of one line is opposite the middle of the interval between two of the other line; they are steps as regular as a man’s, only so small. Each mark is fan-shaped; it consists of three little lines less than an inch long, spreading apart at one extremity, joined at the other. At the joined end, and also just in front of it, a flat depression of the sand is barely visible. Now following the track, we see it run straight a yard or [pg004] more, then twist into a confused ball, then shoot out straight again, then stop, with a pair of the footprints opposite each other, different from the other end of the track, that began as two or three little indistinct pits or scratches, not forming perfect impressions of a foot. Where the track twisted there are several little round holes in the sand. The whole track commenced and finished upon the open sand. The creature that made it could not, then, have come out of either the sand or the water; it must have come down from the air—a two-legged flying thing, a bird. To determine this, and, next, what kind of bird it was, every one of the trivial points of the description just given must be taken into account. It is a bit of autobiography, the story of an invitation to dine, acceptance, a repast, an alarm at the table, a hasty retreat. A bird came on wing, lowering till the tips of its toes just touched the sand, gliding half on wing, half afoot, until the impetus of flight was exhausted; then folding its wings, but not pausing, for already a quick eye spied something inviting; a hasty pecking and probing to this side and that, where we found the lines entangled; a short run after more food; then a suspicious object attracted its attention; it stood stock-still (just where the marks were in a pair), till, thoroughly alarmed, it sprang on wing and was off.[2]

[2] Elliott Coues.
Following the key further, he draws more conclusions. The tracks are not in pairs, so the bird does not belong to the perchers; therefore it must be a wader or a swimmer. There are no web-marks to indicate the latter; hence it is a three-toed walking or wading bird. It had flat, long, narrow, and pointed wings because it came gliding swiftly and low, and scraped the sand before its wings were closed. This is shown by the few scratches before the prints became perfect. A certain class of birds thus arrests the impetus of flight. It had a long feeling-bill, as shown by the little holes in the sands where the marks became entangled; and so on. These combined characteristics belong to one class of birds and to no other; so he knows as definitely as [pg005] though he had seen the bird that a sandpiper alighted here for a brief period, for here is his signature.
It is plain that tracks in the sand mean as much to the naturalist as do tracks in the snow to the hunter, and trails on the land to the Indian who follows his course by signs not seen by an untrained eye.
The tide effaces much that is written by foot and wing, but sometimes such signs are preserved and become veritable “footprints on the sands of time.” In the Museum of Natural History in New York is a fossil slab, taken from the Triassic sandstone, showing the footprints of a dinosaurian reptile now extinct, which, in that long ago, walked across a beach—an event unimportant enough in itself, but more marvelous than any tale of imagination when recorded for future ages. From such tracks, together with fragments of skeletons, the dinosaur has been made to live again, and its form and structure have been as clearly defined as those of the little sandpiper of Dr. Coues. [pg006]


It has been said that everything on the land has its counterpart in the sea. But all land animals are separate and independent individuals, while many of those of the sea are united into organic associations comprising millions of individuals inseparably connected and many of them interdependent, such as corals, hydroids, etc. These curious communities can be compared only to the vegetation of the land, which many of them resemble in outer form. Other stationary animals, such as oysters and barnacles, which also depend upon floating organisms for their food, have no parallel on the land.
The water is crowded with creatures which prey upon one another, and all are interestingly adapted to their mode of life. Shore species are exceedingly abundant, and the struggle for life is there carried on with unceasing strife. In the endeavor to escape pursuers while th

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