I hadn’t though about St Helens Boat Ramp – or marine life in general – for months. It was winter, and I was too busy any outside chores done before my heat intolerance rendered me housebound for the summer.
Then I accidentally made a Botrylloides diegensis observation. The next week, I had a zoom call with two ascidian experts. We shared photos and they helped me understand the features that both both B. Diegensis and Pyura Dalbyi stand out.
I was excited. I had gone through photos that I had previously taken and had noticed what appeared to be P. Dalbyi in many of those photos. I decided to return to St Helens ASAP to 1) get better photos and 2) see what other species was there.
I only stuck to the side of one boat ramp so was limited in species diversity.
It was an awesome, albiet brief, trip. It was around 5pm on a warm evening so there were multiple people fishing and many boats tied up to the pontoons. I was feeling very self conscious lying across the pontoons with my arms in the water. I could barely see what I was photographing half the time.
I was able to get some awesome photos of P. Dalybi which cleared show the fringed aperture. I’m not confident in these identifications as I’m only just getting a grasp of the basics.
I also saw what I’m assuming is B. Diegensis, which made me feel pretty excited. Unfortunately most of the photos turned out blurry so I couldn’t get a decent look. It turned out I had the camera on the wrong setting.
According to SA Marine Guide:
This introduced solitary ascidian is cream in colour, and squat, with short siphons and a lumpy test. The siphons have four double rows of brown stripes. This species can occur in large aggregations and is tolerant of poor water quality. It is commonly found on wharves, jetty pylons and buoys, particularly in estuaries and harbours.
It also has a fine short fringe around the siphon rim.
Turns out this species is quite invasive, also found in brackish water. I think I will still struggle to identify this in the field so am hoping to get more photos.