Marine wildlife to look out for this autumn
Friday 14th December 2018
Whilst the warm, calm sunny days of summer seem like a distant memory a trip to the beach is still worthwhile. Storms that come in off the Atlantic can bring with them all kinds of interesting finds which wash up on the strandline waiting to be discovered. Beachcombing is a great excuse to get outside and is a fun activity for the whole family. You never know what you might find but here are a few things to look out for.
Goose barnacles (above)
Goose barnacles are oceanic drifters and usually found attached to hard, floating objects such as on wood or plastic items. Strong south westerly winds can sometimes cause these bizarre looking creatures to wash up on beaches along the Dorset coast.
Goose barnacles are crustaceans. They have hard white shells (capitulum) made up of five plates which protect their feeding tentacles on top of a soft flexible stalk (peduncle) which they use to attach to drifting objects. They feed by extending their feathery feeding tentacles to filter food from the surrounding sea water.
Portuguese man o’ war (below)
Portuguese man o’ war look might like a type of jellyfish, but they are actually siphonophores - a colony of tiny organisms or zooids with different functions that all work together as if one animal.
Portuguese man o’ war have a pink tinged blue/purple inflated balloon-like float which is used like a sail to transport them around the oceans. Underneath the float long strands of stinging tentacles trail below. The tentacles are covered in nematocysts, which deliver a venom filled sting to anything they come into contact with.
Portuguese man o’ war are usually found in warmer waters but occasionally the winds and oceanic currents can bring them closer to our shores. Just last year vast number of these creatures were found on beaches all along the Dorset coast.
If you do find one of these it’s best not to touch them as they are capable of causing a painful sting even when dead. Please report any sightings to Dorset Wildlife Trust.
Another confusing looking item sometimes found on the strandline, Hornwrack resembles seaweed but look closer and you will actually find that this is a colony of tiny creatures – a bryozoan. The clumps of stiff flattened fronds tend to be light brown/grey in colour with a honeycomb structure of small squares which would have contained the individual zooids. When it’s fresh, Hornwrack can have a lemony smell.
Send your marine sightings to @DWTMarine on Twitter, or email email@example.com.
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