Cabrillo Marine Aquarium


  The mudflat habitat is an enclosed coastal area with fresh and saltwater saturated sediments. Mudflats appear barren but conceal a rich variety of life. Many animals depend on this fragile and threatened habitat. Commercially important fish, such as the California halibut, use this habitat as a nursery ground which provides protection and a rich source of food.

The area surrounding the upper part of the mud is called the saltmarsh and teems with plants. Marsh plants provide shelter and living space for other organisms. The breakdown and decay of these plants produce organic debris which is a rich food source for a variety of invertebrates, like fiddler crabs and amphipods. These animals are an attractive food source for the mudflat’s large bird population, including the willet and snowy egret. Over 100 species of birds reside in or visit southern California mudflats.

The highest zone is dominated by salt grass which can tolerate only the occasional tidal flooding that occurs at this level. The middle zone is characterized by pickleweed which is more tolerant of tidal flooding. The lowest zone teems with eel grass which is one of the few marsh plants that can grow completely underwater.

Visit the mudflat room at the aquarium to learn more about marsh plants and the many animals that depend on this important habitat. 

Southern California Species

Black-crowned Night Heron   Black-crowned Night Heron    Arrow
Nycticorax nycticorax

Black-crowned night herons feed at night in the same areas that other heron species feed in the day.

California Halibut   California Halibut   Arrow
Paralichthys californicus

The California halibut is a flatfish with both eyes on one side of its head!

California Skate   California Skate   Arrow
Raja inornata

The California Skate has a skeleton made completely out of cartilage.

Eel Grass   Eel Grass   Arrow
Zostera marina

Eel grass is a true plant (not a seaweed) and is one of the few flowering plants that grow in the ocean.

Fiddler Crab   Fiddler Crab   Arrow
Uca crenulata

Males have a large claw that they wave back and forth like a fiddler.

Giant Kelpfish   Giant Kelpfish   Arrow
Heterostichus rostratus

The giant kelpfish can quickly change color during courtship or territorial displays.

Marbled Godwit   Marbled Godwit   Arrow
Limosa fedoa

The marbled godwit has a long, slightly upturned bill with a dark tip and pinkish base.

Pacific Seahorse   Pacific Seahorse   Arrow
Hippocampus ingens

The Pacific seahorse reverses traditional birthing roles.

Sea Pansy   Sea Pansy   Arrow
Renilla koellikeri

A sea pansy is not a flower, but is an animal that is related to sea jellies.

Striped Shore Crab   Striped Shore Crab    Arrow
Pachygrapsus crassipes

The striped shore crab spends at least half its time on land, but submerges at times to wet its gills.

Tidewater Goby   Tidewater Goby   Arrow
Eucyclogobius newberryi

The tidewater goby is an endangered species.

Western Gull   Western Gull   Arrow
Larus occidentalis

The Western gull typically lives about 15 years, but can live to at least 25 years.

White Seabass   White Seabass   Arrow
Atractoscion nobilis

The white seabass is the largest species of croaker in California.