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The Rocky Seashore
Life in a Tide Pool
MARE/Rocky Seashore/Seashore Charades/University of California©2002
Organisms that live at
the rocky seashore must
be able to survive the
crash of as many as
8,000 waves every day.
These waves bring water
full of oxygen and food
to animals that live
there. This is a very
good thing.
What might be bad
about crashing waves?’
How might it feel to be
hit by a crashing wave?
How do you think
animals and seaweeds
protect themselves from
Ocean Waves
To survive waves,
organisms need
adaptations such as:
Hold tight to the rocks
Hide in cracks and
Have a hard shell for
Have a rubbery body to
bend and sway in the
Fly or run away to keep
from getting swept out
to sea
Organism Adaptations
All the time the waves
are crashing on the edge
of the rocky seashore,
the water of the ocean is
slowly rising up towards
the cliffs or slowly
moving back toward the
shore. This slow
movement of water is
called the tides.
The time it takes for for
water to go from low tide
to high tide is about 6
High and Low Tides
When the tide is high,
the water covers most of
the seaweeds and
The sun can’t dry them
out and birds can’t eat
The waves bring food
and oxygen rich water.
High Tide
When it is low, the
seaweeds and animals
are uncovered.
The organisms must
protect themselves from
drying out and
Even though the tide is
out, some seaweeds and
animals are still covered
safely with water. They
are living in a tide pool.
Low Tide
This tide pool fish is
called a sculpin. What
adaptations do you
think this sculpin has
that help it live at the
rocky seashore?
What adaptations does this
barnacle have?
Barnacles start out their
lives as plankton. Plankton
are organisms that are very
weak swimmers and are
pushed this way and that by
the wind and moving water.
The tiny barnacles drift
through the water riding on
the waves and moving water
looking for a good place to
live. When they’ve found
the right spot on a rock or
the shell of another animal,
they cement themselves
onto their new home.
They build volcano-shaped
shells around their bodies to
protect themselves from
predators and the drying
effects of the sun.
Acorn Barnacles
What adaptations do you
see here?
This shore crab has a
hard outer shell called
an exoskeleton. Crabs
have eight walking legs
and two pincers, which
they use to protect
themselves. These
animals can remain out
of water for quite a
while, but must keep
their gills wet so that
they can breathe.
Purple Shore Crab
What adaptations does
this hermit crab have?
Unlike shore crabs,
hermit crabs are only
partly protected by a
hard exoskeleton. Their
walking legs, claws and
head have protective
armor, but their stomach
and abdomen are soft
and vulnerable so they
need to find a shell to
wear for protection.
Hermit Crab
What adaptations do you
see here?
This giant green sea
anemone is an animal
that looks very much like
a flowering plant.
Anemones live attached
to a rock and have
tentacles that sting their
prey when the prey
comes too close. The
tentacles then pull the
food into their mouths.
Giant Green Sea Anemone
What adaptations do you
see here?
The colorful bat star, a
type of sea star, is
holding on tight to keep
from being washed away
by the waves.
Bat Star
What adaptations do you
see here?
Most sea stars, like this
ochre star, have five
arms or rays, and
suction-cup-like tube
feet for holding on tight,
moving around and
capturing food.
Though they live in the
low zone, nearest to the
water, they eat mainly
mussels from the midzone. At high tide, sea
stars travel up to the
mussel beds to feed and
then follow the tide back
down to the low zone.
Ochre Sea Star
What adaptations do
birds have?
Western Gull
Here is a seaweed called
a sea palm. What
adaptations do you see
The sea palm grows only
in the low zone where
the waves are the
Sea Palm
What adaptations does
an octopus have to
survive in the tide pools?
Octopuses don’t have a
hard shell to protect
them so these intelligent
animals use camouflage
as one way to protect
themselves from
predators. An octopus
usually lives in a hole or
cave within the rocks.
What adaptations do you
see here?
Chiton have one large
muscular foot like the
snails they are related to.
They use their foot to
attach very tightly to a
Chitons have a shell
made up of eight
overlapping butterflyshaped parts. When
they are pulled off a
rock, they can roll up to
protect their soft foot.
Lined Chiton
What adaptations do you
see here?
Mussels have two shells
like a clam. Mussels
don’t have a foot
adapted for hanging on
like a chiton or for
digging in sand or mud
like a clam. Instead
mussels use their foot to
attach threads from their
body to a rock with one
of the strongest glues in
the world. Mussels stay
attached even in the
strongest waves.
California Mussels