The plants and animals in the tide pools are well adapted to withstand biting wind, pounding waves and a range of weather, but they are not well adapted to withstand continual human contact.

Please remember: we are visitors to the intertidal habitat and must respect animals that call Haystack Rock home by not poking, prodding, prying, removing, eating, squashing, stomping, kicking, licking, collecting, crushing or otherwise injuring plants and animals.


Walk only on sand or bare rock

Look with your eyes, touch gently

Climbing and collecting is prohibited in a marine garden

Keep dogs on leashes and under control

Give nesting birds lots of space

Don’t feed the birds

Don’t litter – creatures will eat it!

It's All Connected!

Bands of life at Haystack Rock

High TIde Zone:

Animals in this zone have shells and eat algae off of the rocks (limpets) or filter food from the water (barnacles). Feeding time for these animals is limited because they are exposed to air for long periods of time. This
zone is too high for most hungry marine predators to climb.

MID-TIde Zone:

Filter-feeding mussels thrive in this zone; lower on the rock they can fall victim to a hungry sea star.

LOW TIde Zone:

Exposure to air is minimal and food is plentiful. This zone has the highest diversity. At low tide, life is quiet as creatures conserve water for survival. As water rises, animals become active and fish return.

Herbivores: Vegetarians of the Intertidal

Many tide pool animals spend their entire lives in one spot.

• Mussels •

• Mussels attach themselves to rocks by secreting a liquid that hardens, forming a thread in sea water.

• They rely on the strength of byssal threads to withstand crashing waves and prying predators like sea stars.

• They clean water. One mussel can filter three liters of water per hour by moving tiny hairs to pump water through their bodies, eating edible bits and tiny algae called phytoplankton.

• Barnacles •

• Barnacles build calcified homes on nearly any surface.

• To eat they extend sticky, feathery feet called cirri into the water to capture plankton.

• Three types of barnacles are found at Haystack Rock– gooseneck, acorn, and thatched.

Learn More

• Chitons and Limpets  •

• Chitons and limpets use tiny rows of teeth to scrape algae off rocks.

• These plant eaters move around on a foot that makes up most of their body.

• Limpets can be found around the Needles, islands just south of the rock.

• Chitons roll up in a ball when removed from a rock.


There is a wide variety of carnivorous creatures that inhabit the tide pools including crabs, snails, fish, and the occasional octopus.  The more popular include:

• Ochre Sea Star •

• The Ochre Sea Star is the top predator of the intertidal food web.

• These sea stars do not have eyes nor a brain yet easily grab slow-moving prey.

• During high tide they search for crabs, snails, barnacles, and mussels.

• Once captured, they insert their stomach into the prey, liquefying it before slurping the contents.

Learn More

• Anemones •

• Anemones are carnivorous and stationary creatures that sit and wait for food to come to them.

• Their colorful tentacles are equipped with stinging cells, called nematocysts. These cells release barbs filled with toxins to paralyze and capture prey that passes by.

• They go dormant up to 3 months if covered by sand.

• Visit HRAP at the Marine Garden tide pools to learn more!

• Thick Horned Nudibranch •

• These nudibranchs feed on the tentacles of anemones. They can eat the nematocyst cells without being harmed.

• Once ingested, the nematocyst cells are transported to the nudibranch’s back, where they are used for defense.

Learn More

• Sea Lemon Nudibranchs •

Sea Lemon nudibranch; photo by Tiffany Booth

• The Sea Lemon Nudibranch feeds on sponges. Sponges have little spines all over their bodies.

• This nudibranch consumes and uses these spines as its own defense.

• The nudibranchs’ vibrant colors act as a warning to lurking predators.