Tide pools are one of the harsher ocean environments which consist of pools of salt water along the beach which fill during high tide with fresh ocean water and are left isolated at low tide. Due to the constant influx of different water during high tide and the evaporation of water during low tide (which increases the salinity of the water), life in the pools must be able to secure itself in the pool, tolerate high salinity and a risk of drying out and being eaten by land creatures and sea creatures which are washed into the pool.

For the most part, the inhabitants of the pool are invertebrates or have an exoskeleton like crabs and starfish. Near the surface of the pool in the spray/splash zone you can find green sea lettuce, especially at low tide on hot days. Barnacles can often be found on the rocks in and around tide pools and they can keep themselves wet internally for days at a time if conditions force them to and fork food into their mouths with their feathery feet if they've a chance. Other life near the surface includes brown periwinkles and white dog whelks. Farther down in the high tide zone you can find brown rock weeds with bladders of air in their stems which help them float on the surface to get light at high tide, algae, and hermit crabs. Hiding underneath the rock and seaweeds in the mid and low tide zones are starfish and sea urchins, mussels and Irish moss. The seaweeds provide protection from the sun during low tide. In the mid tide zone this is most important twice a day during low tide, when these creatures are exposed. Only the animals at the very bottom such as small fish and shrimp are never out of the water and are the most fragile life forms in the pool.

Parks and Areas in the United States with Tide Pools

Things You Should Keep In Mind When Visiting a Tide Pool

  • Do not remove barnacles and related animals from the rocks
  • Don't move the seaweed or step on it as animals tend to hide underneath for sun protection
  • Keep an eye on the ocean for waves
  • Watch out for slippery algae covering rocks. Some of it is rock colored, so checking with a hand first may be best
  • Stay away from areas with sea palms, as they thrive in heavy surf areas
  • Don't climb on cliff edges as the water erodes them and they're likely unstable

Sources:
Tide Pools. Hawaiiweb.com. 20 Aug 2004 <http://octopus.gma.org/katahdin/tidepool.html>.
Tide Pools. National Parks Conservation Association. 20 Aug 2004 <http://www.npca.org/marine_and_coastal/beaches/tide_pools.asp>.
Tidepool. Gulf of Maine Aquarium. 20 Aug 2004 <http://octopus.gma.org/katahdin/tidepool.html>.

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