A red tide resulted in bright orange wavelets breaking onto the beach in Simon’s Town yesterday (5 Aug 2013), leaving a gloopy soupy deposit on shore and fascinating – and worrying – visitors to the beach.
When my son and I paddled out into the bay from Long Beach, the water was crystal clear, with the odd patch of red tide floating on the surface. On our return to the beach we paddled through a thick orange soup of algae which had the granular texture of not quite dissolved gelatine. According to Chris Fallows there was a huge patch of red tide in the middle of False Bay.
Unfortunately we did not have a camera with us as also on the beach was a colony of eleven salps.
They were attached to one another forming a honeycomb pattern and were much larger than I pictured them to be, judging from the photo sent to me by Jandy Jaques last week. One salp filled my hand. Salps look – and feel – as if they belong to the jellyfish family, but unlike jellyfish they have organs such as a heart, vascular system and gonads. Young salps have “tails, gills, a primitive eye and backbone … a slender nerve cord and a hollow enlarged brain.” They are said to have one of the fastest growth rate amongst multi-cellular organisms and form massive colonies or strings. Salps feed on plankton. Where there is abundant food they clone themselves rapidly. When their food source runs out they die, their bodies sinking to the ocean floor, creating large carbon deposits.
Of the people I know who have seen the salps washed up on our shores, not one of us has seen these creatures before. I have contacted marine biologist friends whom I hope will shed more light on their appearance on our beaches over the past two weeks. Will keep you in the picture!
Thanks to Janice Theron, whose children were awed by the phenomenon of the red tide and the “sticky stuff on the beach”, for the lovely photographs.