The shallows where we swim on Block Island, and the sandbars in the Great Salt Pond, where we clam, have been invaded by transparent, pellet-sized, glass-like animals called salps. We've vacationed on the island 10 times in the last 13 years and we've never seen them before, and people who have been going there for longer have never seen them before either. Swimming through them is like swimming through tapioca. On the sand, in the late afternoon sun, they shine like diamonds or cut glass or tiny mirrors. My guess is that they've been around before but not in such abundance. Swimmers think they're jellyfish or fish eggs. But salps are primitive vertebrates in the tunicate family (or so two marine biologists at the Block Island Maritime Institute told me). They have tiny hooks on each end and at times apparently latch on to each other and form long chains. Over the last two weeks they were unhooked, and the hooks sometimes give you a needle-like stick when you're swimming.Some people at Soundwaters, by the way, found a seahorse in Long Island Sound a few days ago. Salps I had never heard of; seahorses I didn't realize were so unusual in this area.
Labels: block island, salps, seahorses, SoundWaters