Cabrillo Marine Aquarium
Rocky Shores

Rocky Shores

  The rocky shore is a difficult place to live, yet some of the largest and most diverse populations of marine plants and animals can be found here. Explore how these animals have many different adaptations to protect themselves and find food.

Seaweeds and microscopic plants produce the basic food of the ocean using the sun's energy. Seaweeds then provide food for such grazers as snails, sea hares and urchins. In the rocky shore, sponges, sea squirts, mussels, fanworms and barnacles filter tiny food particles from the water. Sea anemones and their relatives are hungry predators. These animals, in turn, are eaten by the flamboyant nudibranch slugs and other snails.

The richest habitat along our Californian rocky shores is the kelp forest. Kelp grows up to two feet a day and provides food and shelter for many other plants and animals.

Hunters of the seashore capture their prey in different ways. Sea stars use hundreds of tube feet. Worms and snails may drill or harpoon their prey, while some crabs use powerful crushing claws.

While visiting the touch tank you can experience a variety of rocky shore marine life such as a sea star or a prickly urchin. The touch tank expert will teach you the names and special traits of the marine life as well as answer any of your questions.

Southern California Species

Abalone   Abalone   Arrow
Haliotis sp.

Young abalone with a shell size of less than 3 cm take shelter within the spines of sea urchins for protection.

Acorn Barnacle   Acorn Barnacle   Arrow
Balanus spp.

Barnacles are hermaphroditic (they have both female and male sex organs).

Bat Star   Bat Star   Arrow
Asterina miniata

When two bat stars bump into each other they begin a slow-motion “arm wrestling” match. Each sea star tries to get its arm on top of the other’s arm.

Bluebanded Goby   Bluebanded Goby   Arrow
Lythrypnus dalli

These peaceful fish are often territorial with members of their own species.

Bocaccio   Bocaccio   Arrow
Sebastes paucispinis

The bocaccio can live up to 45 years.

California Mussel   California Mussel   Arrow
Mytilus californianus

While feeding, a mussel filters 2 to 3 quarts of water per hour.

California Scorpionfish   California Scorpionfish   Arrow
Scorpaena guttata

The California scorpionfish has venom in its spines.

California Spiny Lobster   California Spiny Lobster   Arrow
Panulirus interruptus

California Lobsters do not have front claws.

Giant Kelpfish   Giant Kelpfish   Arrow
Heterostichus rostratus

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

Gooseneck Barnacles   Gooseneck Barnacles   Arrow
Pollicipes polymerus

Gooseneck barnacles can live 20 years, or more.

Green Sea Anemone   Green Sea Anemone    Arrow
Anthopleura xanthogrammica

Some fishes develop resistance to the green anemone's sting by covering themselves with mucus.

Hermit Crab   Hermit Crab   Arrow
Pagurus sp.

Hermit crabs protect their rear ends by hiding it in a snail shell.

Horn Shark   Horn Shark   Arrow
Heterodontus francisci

The female horn shark lays a distinctive spiral-shaped egg case.

Masking Crab   Masking Crab   Arrow
Loxorhynchus crispatus

The masking crab decorates itself with bits of algae, sponges and bryozoans.

Purple Sea Urchin   Purple Sea Urchin   Arrow
Strongylocentrotus purpuratus

Sea urchins have tube feet, which they use for attachment, locomotion and feeding.

Sargo   Sargo   Arrow
Anisotremus davidsoni

The sargo is the largest of the Pacific grunts.

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.

Swell Shark   Swell Shark   Arrow
Cephaloscyllium ventriosum

When stressed, the swell shark can “swell” by inflating its stomach by swallowing water.

Western Gull   Western Gull   Arrow
Larus occidentalis

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