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Experience a worm’s eye-view in the mud tunnel

Visit the Exploration Center and take a walk through the mud tunnel. Here you will experience life underground and learn all about the animals that call the “mudflat metropolis” home. The tunnel takes you on a journey into the center of the mud to see the wide variety of creatures living there firsthand. These bustling communities are found in salt marshes along the coast and are considered to be some of the most productive ecosystems in the world.

Salt marshes act as a buffers between land and sea serving as natural filters that clean rainwater capturing fine sediments from land. Sediments collected in salt marshes form a muddy habitat in sheltered coastal areas. This unique combination of mud and the ocean's tides creates the perfect setting for a diverse cast of characters.

As you walk into the tunnel, you might be surprised to find a bent-nosed clam. This clam is more suited for muddy living and burrows down into dirt and sand. Staying concealed in the mud is a great way to avoid predators. To eat and breathe, the bent-nosed clam simply uses a staw-like siphon to draw water down into its gills proving that sometimes you can have the best of both mud and ocean worlds.

Another common and not so surprising mudflat resident are worms. Thousands of worms can live in a small patch of dirt. The innkeeper worm can grow up to seven inches long and digs U-shaped burrows, which become dwellings for other animals, hence the name innkeeper worm. By pumping in water and food to the burrow, this worm creates the perfect five-star accommodations. Many pea crabs enjoy their stay so much they take up permanent residence sharing the innkeeper worm’s burrow.

To other animals, worms are delicious! In the mud tunnel, you’ll notice a huge bird head digging in search of a treat. That’s the head of a willet, a shore bird that uses it long beak to probe for worms and crabs to eat. Willets grow to be about 13 to 16 inches long and can be seen in the salt marsh sticking their beaks in the mud. This is one bird that doesn’t bother washing its beak for dinner.

During your next visit to the Aquarium, visit the Exploration Center and learn more about the fascinating creatures that call mud their home. Afterwards take a short walk to Salinas de San Pedro, a 3.75-acre man-made salt marsh, where you will be able to see some of the animals that spend their lives getting dirty.



Post Date: Wednesday, January 09, 2013

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