Aquatic Fish Database est. 1991

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Pterygophora californica - Winged kelp

Geographic range:
Cook Inlet, Alaska to Baja California, Mexico

Key features:
1-2 m tall, with a rough dark-brown stipe, and topped with an apical blade followed by numerous lateral blades, each smooth and lacking serrations on the edge.

Similar species:
Eisenia arborea -- Southern sea palm Pleurophycus gardneri -- Gardner's kelp Laminaria setchellii --

bay (rocky shore), exposed rocky shore, kelp forest, protected rocky shore
Pterygophora californica - Winged kelp image


Primary common name:
Winged Kelp
  ITIS code:
Synonymous name(s):
General grouping:
Brown seaweed/algae

Geographic Range
Range description:
Pterygophora californica occurs from Cook Inlet, Alaska to Baja California, Mexico.
Northern latitude extent:
  Southern latitude extent:
East longitude extent:
  West longitude extent:

Intertidal Height
Lowest intertidal height:
2 meters OR 6.66 feet
  Highest intertidal height:
0 meters OR 0 feet
Intertidal height notes:
Pterygophora californica can sometimes be found in the low intertidal, but usually as recruits or juveniles.

Subtidal Depth Range
Minimum depth:
2 meters OR 7 feet
  Maximum depth:
25 meters OR 83.25 feet
Subtidal depth notes:
Pterygophora californica is common in the subtidal forming dense stands on rocks. Along the central coast of California, and particularly in Big Sur, this species is very abundant at depths between 5 and 15 m.

bay (rocky shore), exposed rocky shore, kelp forest, protected rocky shore
Habitat notes:
Pterygophora californica is common on rocks, in the subtidal from 2-25 m, where it can form dense stands. It can also sometimes be found in the low intertidal. However, it only occurs only where the surf is continuous and high. Great forests of Pterygophora californica are found on submerged rocky areas and flats.

Relative abundance:

Species Description
General description:
The brown algae Pterygophora californica is a long-lived perennial kelp. The blade and sporophylls usually disintegrate during the winter and new ones are produced in the spring.
Distinctive features:
Pterygophora californica has a heavy and much branched holdfast gives rise to a single and unbranched stipe that is 1-2 m long and 4 cm in diameter. The lower part of the stipe is cylindrical and the upper part is flattened. Perched at the end of the stipe is a single oblong terminal blade that is up to 80 cm in length and 10 cm wide, though it is often much smaller. The sporophylls are similar in shape and size to the terminal blade and arise in two rows along each edge of the flattened part of the stipe. Five to ten sporophylls develop along each side of the stipe.
Pterygophora californica can grow up to 2.3 m tall.

Natural History
General natural history:
The stipe of Pterygophora californica is quite tough and has internal concentric rings that may represent growth rings. Ageing studies of Pterygophora californica have shown that individuals in a population can be between two and eight years of age. However, the dominant age class varies unpredictably from year to year.
Pterygophora californica nourishes itself through photosynthesis, converting the energy of light to the energy of carbohydrate molecules.

Feeding behavior
Feeding behavior(s):
Feeding behavior notes:
September - February  
Pterygophora californica's sporophylls are deciduous and will be shed in the winter after the spores are released in the fall. The next year, the sporophylls will be replaced at a higher level as the stipe grows taller. Sporangia develop in patches on both surfaces of the sporophylls and during maturity, can almost cover them completely. A single individual can produce between 108 and 1010 spores per year.
Mondragon, J. 2003. Seaweeds of the Pacific Coast: common marine algae from Alaska to Baja California. Sea Challengers, Monterey, CA. 97 p.

O\'Clair, R.M. 2000. North Pacific Seaweeds. Plant Press, Auke Bay, Alaska. 162 p.

Data supplied by SIMoN Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network
Anthopleura xanthogrammica - Giant green anemone

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