Common piddock found in Cornwall

March 3rd, 2010

Found on the lower shore of a beach in Cornwall, the common piddock (Pholas dactylus) is a bivalve that can grow up to 15cm long. Pholas dactylus is a borer and bores into peat, clay and even wood. It has phosphorescent properties and glows green-blue around the edges in the dark.

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Greater amberjack

December 10th, 2009

Seriola dumerili, commonly known as the greater amberjack was sighted in Guernsey. This is the first recording of this fish in Guernsey and it is uncommon to Britain. Seriola dumerili are blue or greenish in adults with a silvery white belly and sides. Sometimes, they have a brown or pinkish tinge. The juveniles are between 2 and 17 cm in length and have five dark body bars which split vertically across their body. The maximum recorded size for Seriola dumerili is 188 cm in length although it is common for them to grow up to 110 cm. The greater Amberjack is carnivorous and feed on other fishes and some invertebrates.

Photo of Seriola dumerili here

The goose barnacle, Conchoderma virgatum was also sighted.

Photo: Steve Trewhella

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Six species of barnacle found in Chesil

November 29th, 2009

Six species of barnacle were found in a week of sightings at Chesil. The six species included; the buoy barnacle Dosima faciculalaria, Scalpellum scalpellum and four species of goose barnacle; Lepas anserifera, Lepas hilli, Lepas pectinata and Lepas anatifera.

Dosima fascicularis is also known as the buoy barnacle. Young forms of the buoy barnacle settle on small floating objects in the water such as twigs or feathers, often in groups of about 2-5 juveniles. As they grow, attached to these objects, they produce a white, spongy secretion from cement glands that acts as a float and is similar in texture to polystyrene. Other barnacles can attach to this float and the colony increases in size. Dosima fascicularis is a pedunculate barnacle (has a stalk) which can be pale yellow to purple-brown in colour. Its capitulum can grow up to 30 mm in length.

Another stalked barnacle, Scalpellum scalpellum, attaches to rocks, hydroids, bryozoans etc. It has a flexible muscular peduncle that has an armour of calcareous scales. Its capitulum grows to about 30 mm in height and is usually a white-grey colour with thirteen plates. This is the only shallow water scalpellid barnacle in British waters.

Lepas anatifera is a common goose barnacle. It attaches itself to large floating objects and consists of two parts; the capitulum and the peduncle. The capitulum is about 50mm in length and contains the feeding tentacles and the body of the barnacle. It is oblong in shape and consists of five white plates separated by red-brown or black tissue. The peduncle is a flexible stalk that can grow from 4 up to 85 cm in length! It attaches the barnacle to floating objects.

Lepas pectinata is a small barnacle with a capitulum of only 15 mm. The outer surface or scutum of the barnacle is ridged and it attaches to both small and large objects, such as seaweed. Lepas anserifera is a rare species that is similar to Lepas pectinata but larger with a capitulum up to 40mm long. The barnacle, Lepas hilli is also a rarer species, similar to Lepas anatifera and is distinguished by a paler band between the peduncle and the capitulum.

All photos: Steve Trewhella

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Miniature sea tulip found on Isles of Scilly

November 15th, 2009

A new species for the UK, the Miniature Sea Tulip (Bolteniopsis prenanti) has been found growing on the Isles of Scilly. The sea tulip is a stalked sea squirt that grows to about 15mm in height and at depths between 40-55cm. Visually, it is similar to the sea squirt Boltenia ovifera found on the USA’s pacific coast and the sea tulip Boltenia pachydermatina found in Australasia. Perhaps because of its size, there have been only 11 confirmed records around the NE Atlantic.

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Discoveries in July

July 29th, 2009

Discoveries this month have included a Slipper Lobster on the Isles of Scilly and a White Sea Bream found on Guernsey.

In the Mouls channel between little Innisvouls and Mouls, in the eastern Isles of Scilly, a slipper lobster was caught in a lobster pot at a depth of 14m.

A White Sea Bream (Diplodus sargus) was caught as part of a shoal of visually similar fish. It is the first White Sea Bream to have been caught and reported in Guernsey.

Click for photo of Diplodus sargus

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Marbled rock crab found on Guernsey

April 28th, 2009

A Marbled Rock Crab (Pachygrapsus marmoratus) was found on Guernsey’s west coast. This could be the first record of this species found on Guernsey. Pachygrapsus marmoratus has a shell or carapace of up to 3.6cm in length and is violet-brown to almost black in colour, with a marbled pattern of yellowish brown. The carapace is almost square in shape. The marbled rock crab is very fast moving and therefore difficult to catch.

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Sea anemone in Bournemouth

February 26th, 2009

Photo: Steve Trewhella

The sea anemone, Diadumene cincta, was found under Bournemouth Pier. Diadumene cincta is a small and slender anemone and can reach up to 60 mm in height. It is usually orange in colour. On its oral disk, it has up to 200 tentacles, also orange in colour. The column is smooth and dotted with pores (cinclides) that release water from the body to allow the anemone to contract if disturbed. Diadumene cincta also has a defence mechanism in the form of stinging tentacles called acontia which are forced through the mouth.

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Rare sighting of sea bream in UK

January 29th, 2009

An unusual report for the British Isles is the Two-banded Sea Bream which has been sighted off Guernsey’s north coast. The sea bream, Diplodus vulgaris, has an oblong body that can grow to 45 cm although they usually reach 20-25 cm. They are generally grey, brownish or greenish in colour with a broad black band. These fish are carnivores and feed on crustaceans and molluscs.

Click for photo of Diplodus vulgaris

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Chameleon prawns

December 2nd, 2008

Chameleon prawns (Hippolyte varians) have been sighted in Studland, Dorset. Hippolyte varians is a small prawn, up to 3.2 cm in length and is widely variable in colour, hence its name, from red to brown through to green or transparent with red or yellow blotches. Hippolyte varians uses this variable colouring as camouflage during the day but turn a blue-green colour at night independent of their habitat.

Photo: Steve Trewhella

A Ray’s Bream was discovered, also known as the Atlantic pomfret (Brama brama) in a rock pool at West Runton, Norfolk. The fish was approximately 50cm long from nose to tail.

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Increased portuguese man o’war sightings

August 30th, 2008

There have been increased reports of Physalia physalis sightings over June, July and August. Physalia physalis or the Portuguese man o’war consists of a large gas-filled float (pheumatophore) which reaches 300mm in length and 100mm in width. Physalia physalis is light blue/purple in colour and has a bright pink crest running along the top of the float or pheumatophore that acts as a sail. Physalia physalis has polyps under the pheumatophore for feeding, defence and reproduction that are several metres in length. Physalia physalis are carnivorous and feed on small crustaceans and larval fish primarily. They do this by delivering an immobilising sting to their prey with tentacles covered in nematocysts or stinging cells. The sting of Physalia physalis is potent, even after death.

Photo: Steve Trewhella

There have also been reports of sightings of Pelgia noctiluca and Buoy Barnacles in Dorset.

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