Marine Invertebrate Zoology
of the
Beaches of Southern California
Augusta Foote Arnold


Robert Jan 'Roy' van de Hoek
Conservation Biologist & Geographer

Ballona Institute
322 Culver Boulevard, Suite 317
Playa del Rey, CA 90293
June, 2008

"The first popular guide to the intertidal zone was The Sea-Beach at Ebb-Tide published by August[a] Foote Arnold in 1901. The volume is still available as Dover Publications, Inc., New York, reprinted in 1968. The great emphasis is for the identification of Atlantic coast plants and animals, but the treatment also includes discussions of nearly 100 Pacific coast genera and several species." Quotation from Common Intertidal Invertebrates of Southern California, in the preface of the second edition.
Richard Knapp Allen, Ph.D, Professor, California State University at Los Angeles, 1978

"The lady who compiled this book (which includes the fauna of both coasts of North America) must have been a remarkable person. The book is essentially sound, although the nomenclature is out of date. However, the treatment is predominantly Atlantic coast." Quotation from Between Pacific Tides, in the annotated bibliography of the fourth edition.
Joel Walker Hedgpeth, Ph.D, Director, Dillon Marine Station, University of the Pacific, 1968

Augusta Foote Arnold wrote about the beaches and seashore of southern California from the perspective of the marine life that occurred there in 1901. That was more than 100 years ago now, and it represents the first published writing in a book that focused on seaweeds, seastars, seashells, sea anemones, sea squirts, marine worms, marine crabs, and marine sponges.

Doctor Richard Knapp Allen, former professor zoology at California State University, Los Angeles, from the mid-1960s until the late-1970s, was the first to recognize that Augusta Foote Arnold wrote about the marine life of southern California. Her writings had been forgotten until that time. In fact, Richard Allen discussed her contributions to understanding the marine life of southern Califronia in the preface of the second edition of his comprehensive guide book to the marine life of southern California. The quoted passage of the preface is featured above, just below the title of this report and the author's name and address. As you read the quote, you will notice that Richard Allen claims that she listed 100 marine genera and species of animals and algae from the Pacific coast. This is the first listing of that many marine species in a book, which at that time, in 1901, more than 100 years ago, is very impressive indeed.

Doctor Joel Walker Hedgpeth, former dean of marine biology in the United States, wrote 40 years ago, in 1968, that Augusta Foote Arnold must have been a remarkable woman. His passage about her, which appeared in the fourth edition of Between Pacific Tides is presented above, immediately adjacent to Richard Knapp Allen's quote, just below the title of the article and the author's name, address, and affiliation with the Ballona Institute.

At this time, in the first edition of this report, I will present just a few excerpts of the species that Augusta Foote Arnold describes in her tome of more than 100 years ago. I will supplement this first edition with more species descriptions excerpted in future editions.

The report will begin with a quoted passage about some geography of California from her book as follows:

"On the California coast in like localities will be found the beautiful Haliotis, Acmaea, and chitons. Every stone that is lifted will disclose numbers of little amphipoda (Gammarus), which will scuttle away on their sides to other shelter; worms will suddenly disappear into the mud, and perhaps a crab, here and there, having no alternative, will make a stand and fight for his liberty. Flat against the stone and not easily perceived may be a chiton, a planarian worm, or a nudibranch. And just below the water's edge are sea-urchins and starfishes, which grow in numbers as the eye becomes accustomed to the search."

"Asterias ochracea. The common starfish of the Pacific coast, from Sitka to San Diego. Five rays, each hardly twice as long as the diameter of the body; spines running irregularly over the surface, but forming a pentagon at the middle of the disk and inclosing the madreporic plate; diameter eight inches. It is very common near San Francisco on rocks at low-water mark. (Plate LIV.)"

"Lovenia cordiformis. About one inch by one and a half inches thick; reddish in color; resembles a little porcupine. Found on the southern California coast."

"Hemigrapsus nudus (Mary J. Rathbun), Heterograpsus nudus (Stimpson); Hemigrapsus oregonensis (Mary J. Rathbun), Heterograpsus oregonensis (Stimpson). These two species, commonly called respectively the purple shore-crab and the yellow shore-crab, are the most abundant species of the California coast. Hundreds may be found congregated under a single rock. They range from Sitka to Lower California. H. oregonensis literally swarms in sloughs of salt or brackish water, and hundreds of uplifted threatening claws confront the intruder who ventures on these mud-flats when the tide is out. This species, the yellow shore-crab, has a nearly square body. The anterior half of the side margins has two rather deep indentations, making two spines-like projections which bend forward. The four posterior pairs of legs are more less hairy; the chelae are rather large in proportion. The male is about one inch across and the female is one third less in size. The general color is yellow. H. nudus is found in the same localities, and differs from H. oregonensis in being purple in color, with mottled claws, and in having the denticulations less pronounced and the walking-feet devoid of hairs. It is also a little larger. (Plate LXIII.)"

"Pachygrapsus crassipes. A species very common the California coast south of san Francisco. This crab is similar in general features to the purple and yellow ones described above, but is considerably larger, and teh carapace is banded with color."

"On the California coast are also several species of Trivia and one Cypraea, but they belong to the southern California peninsula, and are not commonly found farther north than Santa Barbara. The cowry is called C. spadacea; it grows to a length of about two inches, is highly polished, with white base and sides, and is bright chestnut above. As is usual in the cypraeas, the spire is covered with enamel.
T.californica. A species found at Monterey and thence south. It lacks ...
T. solandri. This species may be found at Santa Barbara and San Diego. It is twice as large as the last species, and has a very deep groove in the back and widely separated ribs. Color rose to brown. The groove on the back penetrates into the white portion of the shell."

This first brief report on the contribution of Augusta Foote Arnold to the environmental history and natural history of southern California from more than 100 years ago (1901) is illuminating for several reasons. First, Augusta Foote Arnold provides our link in history from modern marine biology of the late 20th Century and our current 21st Century, back even to the late 19th Century. She demonstrates that there was a recreational interest of visiting the seahore and collecting marine life, complete with its educational overtones toward an appreciation of nature, in southern California, whether it be in San Diego, Los Angeles, or Santa Barbara.

Secondly, we see that marine life was already fairly well known more than 100 years ago. We can also note that women played a prominent role in this early period. For example, regarding the shore crabs, we see that Mary J. Rathbun is quoted several times as an expert on the crabs. It is clear from reading the preface and its acknowledgments that August Foote Arnoled was in contact with Mary Jane Rathbun. We are able to ascertain that Mary Rathbun was affiliated as a scientist with the Smithsonian Institution as a an assistant curator of Crustacea (crabs, etc.).

Thirdly, Augusta's writings demonstrate clearly that there has been a decline of marine life in southern California, whether it is from pollution or over collecting by humans which has impacted the habitat of our southern California beaches. For example, the cowry sea shell which Augusta Foote Arnold describes eloquently is virtually extinct now in southern California. In addition, one is now hard-pressed to find either of the two small crabs (Hemigrapsus) in our coastal wetlands, where she described them accurately as "sloughs of salt or brackish water ... who ventures on these mud-flats when the tide is out." Her writing is pure prose, written more than 100 years ago, and an important contribution now for ecological restoration and conservation biology of southern California.

In summary, if one takes the historical ecofeminist writings of Augusta Foote Arnold, then combine it with the writings of Richard Knapp Allen, Joel Walker Hedpeth and merge it with Edward Flanders Ricketts's writings from Between Pacific Tides, we can see the first hints of bringing back endangered and rare crabs and snails (and their seashells) back to the wetlands of southern California. Wouldn't it be nice to bring some history and ecology back to not only the coast of Los Angeles County, but to the neighboring counties of southern California, i.e. San Diego, Orange, Ventura, and Santa Barbara counties.

Allen, Richard Knapp. 1978. Common Intertidal Invertebrates of Southern California. Second Edition. T.H. Peek Publishers.

Hedgpeth, Joel Walker. 1968. Revised Bibliography, in Ricketts, Edward Flanders, Between Pacific Tides, Fourth Edition. Stanford University Press.