Life on Intertidal Rocks: A Guide to the Marine Life of the Rocky North Atlantic Coast (Nature Study Guides)
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Formation of the Rocky Coast
The rocky coast of the Gulf of Maine, with wave-beaten headlands, narrow sheltered bays, steep, rocky cliffs, and many islands, was shaped by Ice Age glaciers. Sheets of ice up to a mile thick advanced as far south as Cape Cod, scouring away sediment. As they retreated, the melting glaciers exposed the granite bedrock and left behind boulders and gravel. This made an intertidal habitat with many places for organisms to hide, and a firm substrate for them to grip--a rocky habitat quite different from the shifting beach sediments of the Atlantic coast south of Cape Cod.
Water temperature determines where a plant or animal lives. Each intertidal organism has a range of temperatures in which it can flourish. Beyond this optimal range it can survive only by adapting to local conditions. The hook of Cape Cod juts into the Atlantic Ocean and acts as a barrier between cold temperate waters in the Gulf of Maine and warmer waters to the south. Some species occur only in the Gulf of Maine. Others, more abundant south of Cape Cod, have adapted to the cooler waters by moving into higher, warmer levels of the intertidal zone, or by completing their life cycles during the warmer months. Some are confined locally to sheltered bays. Conversely, intertidal species common in the arctic may be found in the Gulf of Maine at lower intertidal and subtidal levels.
Intertidal plants and animals must contend with a wide variety of environmental stresses. Twice daily they tolerate submersion and exposure to air and sunlight. Storms with crashing waves threaten to rip organisms off their substrates. Predators are a constant menace.
The seasons bring dramatic changes. Ice scrapes creatures off exposed rocks and freezes shallow tide pools, trapping the inhabitants. Some animals can escape winter cold by moving to deeper water, but attached organisms die back or become dormant, waiting for spring. In summer heat, animals can suffocate, since warm water holds less dissolved oxygen.
Salinity (salt concentration) changes as rivers swollen with melted ice and snow dilute coastal waters in the spring. Shallow tide pools have the widest range of salinity, as rain dilutes or the sun evaporates the water. Few intertidal creatures can tolerate the brackish water of estuaries, where salt water intrudes only at high tide.
Despite all these difficulties, intertidal rocks are crowded with creatures competing for food and shelter.
Titel: Life on Intertidal Rocks: A Guide to the ...
Verlag: Nature Study Guild Publishers
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