Marine wildlife to look for in October
Early October, if the weather stays calm, can be a great time for rockpooling. The water is still warm from the summer and the rockpools are full of this year’s young, so there is lots to see. Because of the autumn equinox there are also some very low spring tides, so parts of the lower shore that are not normally uncovered will be accessible. Prawns, despite being almost invisible, are very active and easy to spot. If you keep your hand very still in the water, they might come and investigate, giving you a tickly or nippy manicure depending on how big they are!
Common Prawn © Peter Tinsley
There are lots of cushion stars, a type of short-armed starfish, about this year. Look underneath rocks at the bottom of seaweedy rockpools to find them sticking to the underside. There are two types in Dorset, the more common cushion star, Asterina gibbosa, measuring up to 5cm across, has a greeny blue plain colouration with five short stubby arms. The much smaller type, Asterina phylactica, looks very similar but with a distinctive red star pattern in the middle. It grows to a diminutive 1.5cm wide and has only fairly recently been recorded in Dorset.
Cushion Star © Julie Hatcher
If the weather turns stormy, especially towards the end of the month, a spot of beachcombing might be in order. At this time of year there will be lots of kelp, the largest of our British seaweeds, washing ashore having been ripped from the seabed by rough seas. Look on its fresh, brown fronds for tiny blue-rayed limpets or down in the holdfast (the bulbous or branched part that anchors the seaweed to the seabed) where they migrate to over-winter. These small molluscs, measuring up to 1.5cm, live and feed on kelp and will not survive being stranded on the shore. They have fine lines of electric-blue spots along their shell.
Blue-rayed Limpet © Helen Earwicker
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