Hello folks who wonder if Nudibranchs are the butterflies of the tide pools,

We are living in a world where habitats are being lost every minute, every single day. What was once a place where humans sought solace and socialized is now disappearing before our eyes. The only place where humans felt as much at ease as they would in their own homes, where time seemed to move swiftly, is on the brink of extinction.

Yes, I am talking about MALLS.

Malls are breathing their last and unless we do something like we did in the past, I am afraid it is going to be too late. Entering stores where no one ever buys anything and intentionally leaving our gross wrappers and half-eaten food there for other people to clean up, I am afraid we will see an end of an era, a glorious era at that.

Vernal pool habitats may seem like unutilized spaces that could be used for constructing more malls at first glance. However, these temporary bodies of water that form during the wet seasons, such as winter support a diverse array of plants, animals, and microorganisms that are not typically found in other habitats.

I recently had the opportunity to be part of a group that measures the biodiversity of this unique habitat, giving me firsthand insight into the ecological significance of vernal pools.

One of the wildflowers that are butting the vernal pools are the Flatface Calicoflower which is a species endemic to California typically found in vernal pool habitats.

A unique critter that resides in these vernal pools is the Tadpole shrimp. These crustaceans have a protective shell called a carapace that is arched over their body. Combined with the tail, it gives them a tadpole-like appearance.

They have more than 30 pair of legs that help them propel in the water but also functioning as gills.

Tadpole shrimps carry their eggs in an egg sac attached to the side of their bodies. Depending on the conditions, these eggs can either hatch into babies or remain as cysts capable of withstanding the drying of the vernal pool for several years. When the rains return and the ponds refill, the babies emerge from the cysts. Evidently, planning any gatherings for these unique creatures would prove quite challenging due to their unpredictable lifecycle.

Among the inhabitants of vernal pools, the California Tiger Salamander stands out as the heavyweight, both literally and figuratively. Their larvae develop in these temporary water bodies before emerging as adults and taking residence in abandoned burrows of ground squirrels or gophers. Within the vernal pool ecosystem, the salamander larvae reign as top predators, consuming any smaller organisms in their path. Unlike their adult counterparts that breathe through lungs, these larvae possess feathery gills that facilitate respiration underwater.

This specimen we encountered measured around 120mm and was nearing the final stage of its metamorphosis into adulthood. How do we know that? Because we found in its possession a teen driver license, a Stanley cup, Prime energy bottle and a prescription of Adderall for its ADHD.

Also, found a metamorphosing Pacific Chorus frog in one of the vernal pools.

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