Beneath Pacific Tides: Subtidal Invertebrates of the West Coast (Book Review)

SeaDoc Society Science Director Joe Gaydos reviews Beneath Pacific Tides: Subtidal Invertebrates of the West Coast, by Gregory Jensen, Daniel Gotshall and Rebecca Flores Miller.

By Joe Gaydos

SCUBA divers, recreational shrimp fishers, and people who cruise the lower intertidal on minus tides are routinely calling, emailing or stopping by the SeaDoc Society office with photos or samples asking us , “What is this? Have you ever seen one of these? Is this native or introduced?”

We’re always happy to help out, but now people can just open the pages of a recently published book and have their questions answered in the comfort of their own home!

Playing off of the title of the famous intertidal biology text written by “Doc” Ricketts and Jack Calvin, Between Pacific Tides, Jensen and co-authors have written its subtidal counterpart, Beneath Pacific Tides, which is so well done it promises to become a legacy textbook for ocean lovers.

Fitted with a very simple four-page pictorial key at the beginning, even the armchair scientist can quickly figure out if they’ve found a sea anemone or a hydroid, a brittle star or a sea star, an Anomuran crab or a true crab. Oh, and Anomuran crabs have 3 pairs of walking legs, true crabs, 4 – if you were wondering.


Once you’ve identified the appropriate phylum, the reader is immediately referred to pages and pages of color photographs for more fact finding. These beautifully presented ID photos will help you determine if you have found a lined chiton or a blue-lined chiton or even a white-lined chiton. Also, you can learn fun facts like the fact that gumboot chitons were eaten by some Native Americans, but due to their toughness they were usually reserved for young people with good teeth.

But this book is not only for identifying those deepwater creatures that you’ve seen diving or pulled up in your shrimp trap. This book is an ode to ocean diversity along North America’s west coast. Diversity is not only beautiful in humans; it is in the ocean, too. Take a look at the 27 pages of “sea slugs” as a starting point.

Page by page you will be amazed that such beautiful and diverse creatures live beneath our cold water. I’ve always admired hermit crabs. Seeing six pages of different hermit crabs reminds me that we don’t always see the variety that exists. Next time, I should look a little closer when I find one and use the opportunity to celebrate the ocean’s diversity. Just as reminding ourselves that every diverse person brings something unique to the table helps us take better care of each other, knowing the diverse creatures of our ocean can help us take better care of the sea. Read up!

ISBN 978-0-9898391-1-2
MolaMarine Publisher, Bremerton, Washington