Early this morning my son took me out to explore the cold, shallow shore of Lake Merritt here in downtown Oakland. We waded in with nets and peered around the rocks near the estuary entrance. Kieran, with his sharp young eyes, immediately spotted and caught several spider crabs, then added to that collection, ending up with about eight or ten of them in little plastic bowls on the shore, where curious passersby peered at them, and at us.

These crabs are weird, fascinating creatures, perfectly camouflaged by the leafy water weeds growing right on their backs.

Then Kieran¬†spotted something very alien. “A nudibranch! A nudibranch!” he yelled. Yes, my five-year-old son knows what a nudibranch is! We’ve caught them before at the shore in Alameda. But we didn’t know they lived in Lake Merritt!

Soon he had caught a half dozen or more of the weird, frilly sea slugs.

After studying all these alien life forms, we returned them to the water.

Who knew there was such a mysterious, alien community right at our feet?

We waded in the lake with nets this morning.

We waded in the lake with nets this morning.

One of the spider crabs Kieran found.

One of the spider crabs Kieran found.

We plopped the spider crabs in bowls of lake water to study them.

We plopped the spider crabs in bowls of lake water to study them.

We also caught a shore crab, Pachygrapsus, on the right.

We also caught a shore crab, Pachygrapsus, on the right.

A nudibranch climbs the side of the container.

A nudibranch climbs the side of the container.

Kieran, with his sharp eyes, spotted and caught a half dozen nudibranchs in the lake.

Kieran, with his sharp eyes, spotted and caught a half dozen nudibranchs in the lake.

Nudibranchs on my desk.

Nudibranchs on my desk.

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