The “marine detective” for the northeast Pacific Ocean is educating people about the collar-shaped capsules that can be seen on Haida Gwaii beaches around this time of year, especially during low tide.
Marine Education and Research Society biologist and educator Jackie Hildering told the Observer the collars are made by moonsnails and may consist of thousands of microscopic eggs waiting to be hatched.
While neither moonsnails nor the collars are recent phenomena, Hildering said she fielded a few comments last month from people who thought they were garbage, so decided to speak out.
Shaped like a shirt collar, the glossy, sometimes rubbery-looking bands may appear to be industrial garbage to the untrained eye.
“So not true,” Hildering said, adding that sandy beaches on Haida Gwaii are “moonsnail heaven” and she has seen the sea mollusks here herself.
She said Lewis’s moonsnails are most likely to be seen locally. They are the most commonly found species of moonsnail on B.C. coasts and have a shell of up to 14 centimetres wide.
“Outstanding feat of engineering”
When moonsnails are ready to lay eggs, they use mucus to cement the eggs together with grains of sand, which forms the collar. The snail is often at the centre of the structure.
After 10 to 14 hours of laying eggs and sealing them with another layer of sand and mucus — the “sand-mucus matrix,” as Hildering says — the snail crawls away from underneath the structure. When the eggs hatch, the collar breaks and the larvae swim out.
An intact collar indicates that it contains moonsnail eggs and should not be disturbed. As such, Hildering advocates for a ‘no-take, no-touch’ policy and advises people against moving the collars.
Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: