When the submarine surfaces, Widmer quickly packs his tiny captives into chilled Tupperware containers. The strawberry jelly begins to languish almost immediately, as the sunlight disintegrates the red porphyrin pigment in its bell; soon it will be floating upside down. A second unknown specimen with pinwheel-shaped gonads looks perky enough, but we have caught only one, so Widmer will not be able to breed it for public display. He hopes to retrieve more on the next trip.
He has, however, managed to corral half a dozen Earleria corachloeae, a species he recently discovered. He named it after his two young landlocked nieces in Wichita, Kansas—Cora and Chloe. Widmer produces a YouTube series for them called “Tidepooling With Uncle Chad,” which introduces ocean wonders—sea turtle nests, bull kelp trumpets, snail racetracks—he wants them to know.
Two days later, the E. corachloeae produce a smattering of eggs like grains of fine beach sand. He will dote on his captives until they die or go on display. They are officially “golden children.”
Abigail Tucker is a staff writer. John Lee’s photographs have run in Smithsonian articles about tomatoes and John Muir.