February 7th, 2011

Great to get out on a mid-winter rockpool ramble with the Blue Sound team and Mount Wise Primary School at Devil’s Point Beach. Not quite the same as Wembury, but lots to find, especially if you don’t mind small brown things! James and I helped Bex find some creatures before the ramble got going – some crabs, a rock goby, dog whelks and a pair of worm pipefish, the male being very pregnant. When the first half of the group arrived we had a look at what the sea had cast up among the seaweed, (why are people happy to pick flowers and run their hands through grass but go “Yuck” at touching seaweed?), and created some wonderful beach sculptures. When everyone arrived we split into 4 groups of 4 and went rambling. Photos are up on Flickr which you can see from the Blue Sound web pageWhat did we find? An unfortunate limpet that had been attacked by two dog whelks, (“It’s not fair!”), shore, edible, furrowed, porcelain (long and broad clawed) crabs, more fish (James’ team found two rocklings), a couple of small brittle starfish (which didn’t pass for “cool”), green leaf worms, spiral worm, keel worm and possible a scale worm as well as sponges, seaweeds and topshells. It was something of a surprise to find the tide was coming in, I’d no idea we’d been down there so long – it’s amazing how quickly the time passes when you’re having fun. Not being cold helps – thanks to Antarctic undies. John Hepburn

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Marina marine life

November 2nd, 2010

A marina ramble (or was it a pontoon safari?) was organised by John Hepburn with permission from the Managing Director of Plymouth’s Mayflower Marina, Charles Bush on Saturday 23 October.

There was a good turnout and lots of interest in the non-native species that arrive and thrive on boat hulls, chains and pontoons. Luckily, the MBA’s John Bishop was there to talk about why marinas are so important for non-native species and point out some of the sea squirts, molluscs, sponges and seaweed that cover all available surfaces.

A different perspective on Mayflower Marina. Photo: Keith Hiscock

Mussels and anemones (the orange ones are Diadumene cincta) on a floating pontoon. Photo: Keith Hiscock

There was an opportunity to snorkel amongst the pontoons too. Those in the water were rewarded with lots to see despite the water being a bit murky, due to spring low tide and a lot of rain.

The pontoons and boat hulls are unique habitats in that the plants and animals that grow on them aren’t subject to tidal movement (floating surface). The pictures how much life there is, taking advantage of the prime underwater real estate.

A plastic settlement panel after 8 weeks in a Plymouth marina. Photo: John Bishop

Predators that can’t swim aren’t able to get up onto floating structures so some of the filter feeding animals (e.g. the pretty oaten pipes hydroid) which would usually have been munched by sea slugs in the summer are still there in mid autumn!

Some of the large seaweeds such as the non-native Wakame (Undaria pinnatifida) also seem to be surviving the winter on pontoons, whereas on the rocky shore the familiar large-frond stage has given way by the end of the summer to the microscopic phase.

 For more information about marine invasive non-native (alien) species see the website of the Marine Aliens project.

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Devil’s tongue weed

September 1st, 2010

The evocatively named devil’s tongue weed Grateloupia turuturu has been spotted in rockpools at Wembury beach in Devon. This non-native species hails from the Pacific Ocean and appears in the new Identification guide for selected marine non-native species.

Devil's tongue weed Grateloupia turuturu

Photo: Ignacio Barbara

Copies of the guide are available from MarLIN. Please see http://www.marlin.ac.uk/idguides.php

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Beachcombing with the BBC

August 5th, 2010

Although we have had lots of rain this summer we have not had the high winds that drive unusual oceanic creatures onto the beaches of the western British Isles. I was therefore a little apprehensive about taking Emma Brennand of the BBC Springwatch team beachcombing. Thankfully Perranporth delivered a nice variety of interesting finds, the highlights including a couple of buoy barnacles (Dosima fascicularis) and three stranded compass jellyfish (Chrysaora hysoscella).  You can read Emma’s full article here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/natureuk/2010/08/all-washed-up.shtml

Compass jellyfish (Chrysaora hysoscella)

Photo: Becky Seeley

Buoy barnacle Dosima fascicularis

Photo: Becky Seeley

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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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