The Pacific Ocean off the California coast is mixed up, and so are many of the animals that live there.
The violet, thumbnail-size snails washing up here in Horseshoe Cove have never been seen this far north. By-the-wind sailors, a tiny relative of warm-water jellyfish, sprinkle the tideline by the dozen.
And in the tide pools along the cove’s rocky arms, as harbor seals about to pup look languidly on, a slow-motion battle is underway between native giant green and starburst anemones, a species common in Mexico. The southern visitors are bludgeoning their northern hosts with poisonous white-tipped tentacles.
Then there are the whales.
As many as five at a time have been foraging in the San Francisco Bay, the vast inlet about an hour south of here along the wild Sonoma and Marin coasts. The number is far larger than in a normal year, when one or two might wander in beneath the Golden Gate Bridge for a day or two at most.
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