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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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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Jellyfish in November

November 19th, 2007

This month, there have been a number of jellyfish sightings including the String Jellyfish in Cornwall and the Mauve Stinger in the North Channel.

The String Jellyfish Apolemia uvaria, is not actually a jellyfish but belongs to a related group Siphonophora and is related to the Portuguese Man o’ War. They were reported in large numbers and have been spotted off Plymouth sound in the last 4-5 weeks. These unusual creatures have not been recorded in Plymouth or Cornwall before. They are usually found in oceanic waters and have a nasty sting.

Recently, there have been several sightings recorded in the North Channel, North West Ireland and Western Scotland of the jellyfish Pelagia noctiluca, more commonly known as the mauve stinger.

Photo: Steve Trewhella

The mauve stinger can grow up to 10cm in diameter; its tentacles can extend up to 3m and are covered in nematocysts. Its colour varies from mauve-brown to purple and pale red and the exumbrella or the outer surface of the mushroom-shaped bell is covered in nematocyst-bearing warts, pink or mauve in colour. Nematocysts, also called stinging cells, contain small poisoned tubes that deliver its sting. Pelagia noctiluca usually feed on sea squirts and other small jellyfish.

These species also have a nasty sting so approach with care!

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Unusual sightings in July

August 1st, 2007

Despite reduced numbers of sightings this month, perhaps due to the bad weather, there have been some interesting things sighted, including the Dustbin Lid Jellyfish, caught off the Yorkshire coast, a Cuckoo Wrasse sighted in the St Abbs VMCA, a first for the VMCA and a very unusual record for the East coast, and the nationally scarce Glaucus Pimplet anemone, spotted in North Devon.

The dustbin lid jellyfish, Rhizostoma octopus, is usually found on the southern and western coasts of Britain. The jellyfish is solid in appearance and has a dome shaped bell. Its colour varies from a whitish colour to pale shades of green, blue, pink or brown. In mature Rhizostoma octopus, the Gonads (sex organs) for males are blue in colour and reddish-brown in females. Rhizostoma octopus feed on microscopic planktonic organisms and often, the large crustacean Hyperia galba can be found within the body of the jellyfish.

The cuckoo wrasse (Labrus mixtus) is up to 35cm in length for the males and up to 30cm for the females. The functional (older) males are coloured orange-red with a blue striped head and back while non-functional (young) males and females are pink to orange-red with the females having black and white blotches on their lower back.

Glaucus Pimplet (Anthopleura thallia) is a sea anemone that is rare in the UK. The column grows tall, up to 50mm, the anemone varying in colour; green, brown or grey, sometimes with a reddish overcast. The anemone has up to 100 tentacles of moderate length.

The gales in the last week of July also brought in some unusual pelagic species including an unusual form of goose barnacle found in Dorset and North-West Ireland. Has anyone else found anything unusual washed in?

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