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Channel Islands: The Living Sanctuary


The Channel Islands are breeding grounds for both common and endangered species. The Xantus's murrelet (Synthliboramphus hypoleucus) whose population is less than ten thousand only breeds at the image for more..(photo: Channel Islands NMS)

brown pelican

The Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis), an endangered species, feeds on schooling fish near the ocean's surface by plunging beak-first from the air. The chemical DDT almost caused the demise of the brown image for more... (photo: Shane Anderson)

While one may likely see birds flying within the CINMS boundaries, one may also see dolphins "flying" out of Sanctuary waters. The common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) is the most abundant image for more... (photo: Shane Anderson)

The most abundant pinniped (seals and sea lions) in the Sanctuary is the California sea lion (Zalophus californianus). Over 80,000 California sea lions live and breed in the Channel Islands. Sea lions live in herds and can weigh up to 700 pounds! One will usually see these playful mammals basking in the sun on shore or playing with other sea lions underwater. (photo: Glenn Allen)

The blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) is a member of the cetacean family and with fewer than 10,000 individuals it is considered endangered. This is the largest species ever to exist (even bigger than dinosaurs!) image for more... (photo: Fred Benko)

Not as big as the dinosaurs, but possibly as old, sharks first appeared 450 million years ago! More than 25 species of sharks inhabit the waters of the Channel Islands. Unlike fish, sharks lack bony skeletons, scales and air bladders. By day, blue sharks (Prionace glauca) are a common resident offshore, often visible from boats cruising the channel. By night, blue sharks move inshore to feed on anchovies and squid. (photo: Shane Anderson)

The abalone (Haliotis sp.) belongs to the phylum Mollusca, which is even older than that of the shark-molluscan fossil records have been dated back to over 500 million years. Different species of abalone can be found from image for more... (photo: Glenn Allen)

In addition to being a food source for abalone, fish and invertebrates, kelp forests (Macrocystis pyrifera) provide shelter for many marine organisms. Factors such as these make kelp an extremely important part of the Channel Islands ecosystem, which is surrounded by beds of giant kelp. (photo: Kip Evans)

Giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) is the world's largest marine plant, growing as much as 50-60 cm (20-25 inches) per day! During favorable oceanic conditions, when water temperatures are a cool 50° - 65° F and image for more... (photo: Shane Anderson)

A common resident found in kelp beds, rocky shores, and coral reefs is the sea urchin. It has a healthy appetite for organic material and feeds on kelp as pieces drift by. Sea urchins like this Purple Sea Urchin (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus) can image for more... (photo: Laura Francis)

Another reef inhabitant is the anemone. Some species, such as the brooding anemone (Epiactis prolifera) shown here, carry their young on the outside of the body. Anemones rely on stinging cells located in their image for more... (photo: Shane Anderson)

Another unique organism is the feather duster worm (Eudistylia polymorpha). Believe it or not, this beautiful species is not a plant, it's a worm. Its feathery plumes are used to filter water for nutrients and will retract into its tube when it is disturbed. (photo: Chris Gotschalk)

This brittle star (Ophioderma panamense) is primarily active at night and actively seeks prey or detritus, engulfing items with a prehensile ray and bringing them to the mouth. image for more... (photo: Shane Anderson)

A sea star also uses its tube feet to feed on sediments, bivalves, fish and even other sea stars! These active scavengers are found on both sandy bottoms and rocky reefs. The blood star (Henricia leviuscula) is particularly fond of image for more...(photo: Laura Francis)

Bryzoan species are often confused with coral. However, bryozoans comprise a unique phylum of colonial invertebrates otherwise known as "moss animals". image for more... (photo: Shane Anderson)

While bryozoans may be found growing on some species of crab for camouflage, the sheep crab (Loxorhynchus grandis) (shown here) does not use other organisms to mask its appearance. The sheep crab is another image for more... (photo: Shane Anderson) 

Both lobsters and crabs are within the subphylum Crustacea of the phylum Arthropoda. California spiny lobsters (Panulirus interruptus) lack the large pinching claws of their Maine lobster relatives. California spiny image for more... (photo: Shane Anderson)

Many species of rockfish inhabit the waters of the Channel Islands. Treefish (Sebastes serriceps) generally live in rocky crevices and caves of depths up to 46 meters (150 feet). Treefish are extremely territorial and their red-colored lips are probably used to scare off other fish. (photo: Chris Gotschalk)

The Garibaldi (Hypsypops rubicundus) is lucky enough to be protected not only within the boundaries of our marine sanctuaries, but by California state law as well. They are intensely curious about divers and are image for more... (photo: Channel Islands NMS)

This urchin, the red urchin (Strogylocentrotus franciscanus) is the largest species of urchin, growing up to 7 inches in diameter and can survive for up to 20 years. Red urchins are grazers whose appetite for kelp play a significant role in the overall ecology of kelp forest and reef communities.(photo: Channel Islands NMS)

The Pink abalone (Haliotis corrugata) is the easiest abalone to identify due to the design you can find along the edge of the shells and their dark black tentacles. The pink abalone generally inhabit areas from the inter tidal zone to 200 feet.(photo: Channel Islands NMS)

Because they lack gills moray eels (Gymnothorax mordax) constantly open and close their mouth in order to breathe. This habit has a tendency to showcase the moray's fang like teeth and has lead to exaggerated fears of a creature that is typically very shy around humans. image for more... (photo: Brandon Cole)

These fish can reach a length of up to 15.5 inches and can live for up to 13 years! Generally gopher rockfish (Sebastes carnatus) can be found between Mendocino County (Northern California) and Santa Monica Bay where they snack on some of their favorite meals like zooplankton, crab larvae and crab.(photo: Brandon Cole)

Blacksmith (Chromis punctipinnis) are schooling fish, when being cleaned by parasite-eating fish, the school forms a tight ball and hangs upside down, each fish waiting its turn to be cleaned. Blacksmiths feed on zooplankton, copepods, crustacean larvae and eggs.(photo: Dan Richards)

The Senorita fish (Oxyjulis californica) gets its food in an odd way: it preys upon the parasites that attach themselves to other fishes. This arrangement not only benefits the Senorita fish, which receives a meal, but also the other fish, which loses undesirable parasites. (photo: Dan Richards)

Bat rays (Myliobatis californica) like this one are truly graceful creatures who are normally 4 to 5 feet across but have been reported with "wingspans" of 8 feet. They live up to 24 years and are armed with a defensive barb on the end of their tail. Female bat rays grow larger, are faster, and live longer than males.(photo: Channel Islands NMS)

You might find a California sheephead (Semicossyphus pulcher) like this one roaming the rocky reefs and kelp forests that line the shore from the Channel Islands to Monterey. image for more... (photo: Channel Islands NMS)

The giant-spined star (Pisaster giganteus) can be recognized by the rows of large spines along the tops of their arms. They range from the British Columbia to Baja California and eat a variety of foods including snails, barnacles, mussels, other sea stars, and sea urchins.(photo: Channel Islands NMS)

Torpedo rays (Torpedo californica) are identifiable by their flat gray bodies and black spots Interestingly these animals catch their prey by stunning them with a jolt!(photo: Daniel Gotshall)

Starry rockfish (Sebastes constellatus) are beautiful fish that are colored red-orange with yellow and white spots. They are located from Northern California to Southern Baja California and live exclusively over hard bottoms, around large rocks, or in crevices. image for more... (photo: Daniel Gotshall)

Blue rockfish (Sebastes mystinus)swim in schools of hundreds or thousands over reefs and around kelp where they feed upon zooplankton, jellyfish, krill, kelp and hydroids.(photo: Daniel Gotshall)

This white abalone (Haliotis sorenseni) is known for it's yellow tentacles and bright orange foot, which it uses to capture drifting algae. White abalone are generally found at depths beyond 100 feet and are extremely rare.(photo: Channel Islands NMS)

The green spotted rockfish (Sebastes chlorostictus) can be found living in almost any habitat from rocky bottom to sand and mud, from vertical faces to horizontal plains. They are considered solitary species, and spend most of their time on or near the bottom where they mainly prey upon invertebrates such as crab and shrimp.(photo: Channel Islands NMS)

Giant sea bass (Stereolepis gigas) are mainly bottom dwellers, but will come into mid waters when searching for food. They were once abundant throughout Baja, before they were over-fished. They eat spiny lobsters, rock crabs, and squid.(photo: Mark Conlin)

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Revised September 12, 2023 by Sanctuaries Web Team | Contact Us | Web Site Owner: National Ocean Service
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