Bird Island, NC
Cherry Grove Beach, SC
Edisto Island, SC
Ocean Isle Beach, NC
Sanibel Island, FL


Special Sunset Beach Web Page

Copyright 2010 Jo O'Keefe Photos may be used for educational purposes only. Contact me with inquiries.

Every other day I walk on the east end of Sunset Beach. Each day my walk is more joyful. I interact with many children and parents interested in the animals I collect. They ask about other objects and animals they have seen, especially now the Cownose rays. They ask if they are skates or stingrays and if they could hurt them. They ask about the scores of dead Cannonball Jellyfish. We cover one topic after another. Lately I have been carrying a bag with a few empty whelk shells, baby whelks and whelk egg cases. I bring sandwich bags. I explain the whelk life cycle to them and then give them some baby whelks in a sandwich bag. When they ask me how whelks get pregnant, I say that I don't know because I am not a biologist! If we resume walking together, I find item after item, demonstrating how to find them. Soon I am with another family. The children especially like crabs. I collect sand fiddler crabs at the beginning of my walk to show children later. Yesterday I picked up a badly broken shell in Jinks Creek when I began walking. I suspected that a Striped Hermit Crab was in it. In the creek I found other hermit crabs. After I photographed the girls below and then approached to meet them, I told them about the "poor" hermit crab. I put an empty whelk shell in my bucket. Within 90 seconds the hermit crab in the broken shell had checked out the whelk shell and moved into it. We were amazed!
Absorbed in books
Five-year-old boy with Sand Fiddler Crab
Brittle Star, first Note: if an animal does not fit in my frame, it is at least 1/4 inch wide. I can only capture images less than 1/4 inch wide.
Brittle Star, second
Brittle Star, third
Sea Star 1/4 inch in diameter
Sea Star 1/8 inch in diameter
Cownose Rays
Microscope Photos

During my beach walks I collect certain types of seaweed. The best are bryozoans, actually animals, because they host many other animals, particularly worms. Within the items I collect are scores of minute animals. After I return home, I inspect each piece of seaweed. I extract worms for a worm specialist at NC State University in Raleigh, NC. I extract brittle stars and -- for the first time yesterday -- sea stars for myself and to share with researchers who might want them. I find scores of amphipods that cling to my fingers like ants. I touch ocean water in a Petrie dish to free them from my fingers. Along with what I think are amphipods are shrimp so small that I cannot see them, isopods and even the scaleworm shown below. I am extracting small shells, some so tiny that I can only feel them. Many host hermit crabs.

Last week I visited my friend at NC State University while I was in Raleigh. I hurriedly thawed bags that each began with a worm I had found for her and that ended up with the contents of the Petrie dish of what I thought were amphipods from that day's seaweed sorting. We saw absolutely amazing animals under her powerful microscope. Although I can see some of them with my naked eye and others through my microscope, seeing them through her microscope was a tremendous joy. You too can find seaweed and examine it just as I do. Take Ziplock bags to the beach and keep the seaweed moist with ocean water. Back home, use a bright light and set out several small dishes with a bit of ocean water in each into which to separate the types of animals that you find. You will be astonished.

Unfortunately, I have not learned how to take good photos through my microscope. The brittle and sea star photos above were taken through it yesterday. Here are some others from the last few days.

A minute intact Ribbed Mussel nestled inside half of another bivalve
Epitonium sp in the center with a Mitrella lunata on its left
Newborn Knobbed Whelks
ID unknown
Worm head
Amphipod or shrimp
terebellid polychaete also known as a spaghetti worm Three days later an eight-year-old girl and I sat on the sand at the end of my walk tearing apart sea squirts. I had found a large mass of them. She found worm after worm, including several spaghetti worms. She was far better than I am because she did not need reading glasses to find the tiny animals. I taught her about gastropods and bivalves because we were finding innumerable ones. We also found many tiny crabs. When I saw her and her family yesterday -- Wednesday, they reported excitedly said that the hermit crabs that they had been keeping since I gave them to them Saturday were still alive. They were changing ocean water frequently. They understand that they need to release them before leaving Saturday.
ID unknown -- very strange. It had an orange body with very dark legs.