Unusual Finds

Even after all these years of exploring the Cornish rock pools, I find something new every time I go rock pooling.

I’ll add my latest discoveries here and I’d love to hear about yours. The full stories are in my blog.

January 2017

I often get asked to identify ‘strange blobs’ that people have found in the rockpools. While exploring at Port Nadler near Looe, I came across one of my favourite ‘blobs’, a Lamellaria perspicua. I have a bit of a block with them – whenever I find one I start by thinking it’s a sea slug, maybe a juvenile sea lemon by the colour. In fact, the Lamellaria perspicua has a shell, like other snails, but it’s completely hidden.

Lamellaria perspicua - a slug-like snail
Lamellaria perspicua – a slug-like snail
Lamellaria perspicua at Port Nadler
Lamellaria perspicua at Port Nadler

December 2016

Just before Christmas I had an amazing week for finding stalked jellyfish. Over a few days, including a survey with Natural England on Friday, I recorded 48 stalked jellies on the beaches around Looe in South East Cornwall. All three species are tiny and well-camouflaged among the seaweed, but well-worth the effort of searching for.

Cornish rockpool junior's first stalked jellyfish - Calvadosia cruxmelitensis
Cornish rockpool junior’s first stalked jellyfish – Calvadosia cruxmelitensis
Calvadosia campanulata
Calvadosia campanulata
Calvadosia campanulata
Haliclystus octoradiatus

October 2016 – Sponge Crab

Huge thanks go to Ben and Annabelle Lowe for sending in this wonderful photo of a Sponge crab that Ben brought in on a crab pot near Newquay. These amazing and rarely-seen crabs grow a living sponge on their shell. The crab benefits from camouflage and the sponge has a great surface to live on, which moves around taking it to the best food.

Sponge crab. Found on a lobster pot near Newquay. Photo by Ben Lowe.
Sponge crab. Found on a lobster pot near Newquay. Photo by Ben Lowe.

June 2016 – Newly-hatched Greater pipefish

I sometimes see adult Greater pipefish in the pools, but when I found these minuscule thread-like fish among the kelp at Port Nadler Bay, it took me a while to realise what I was looking at. These baby pipefish were so newly-hatched that they still had their yolk sacs attached.

A recently-hatched Greater pipefish baby.
A recently-hatched Greater pipefish baby.

Like their relations, the sea-horses, it’s the male that carries and hatches the eggs from his brood-pouch. The proud parent of these little babies was probably still somewhere nearby.

A baby Greater pipefish with yolk sac still attached. The large eyes and long snout are reminiscent of its cousins, the seahorses.
A baby Greater pipefish with yolk sac still attached. The large eyes and long snout are reminiscent of its cousins, the seahorses.

April 2016 – Scarlet and gold cup corals

I’m delighted that Cornish Rock Pools has been named ‘Blogger of the Week’ by the BBC Wildlife Magazine for my report on finding and photographing these gorgeous Scarlet and gold cup corals this week. Read more here.

Scarlet and gold cup coral in a Cornish rock pool
Scarlet and gold cup coral in a Cornish rock pool

These beautiful little corals are normally only seen by divers, but can be found on exposed rocky shores at the lowest tides. They grow under steep overhangs and in the areas of high current and wave exposure so they are often tricky to access.

April 2016 – Sagartia troglodytes, an anemone

In some places these anemones are fairly common, but I don’t often see them at Hannafore, so this Sagartia troglodytes caught my eye. They’re a small species with intricate patterns. Their column is sticky and often has fragments of sand stuck to it – this one is covered in tiny shells.

This stunning little anemone, a Sargatia troglodytes had lots of pieces of shell stuck to its column.
This stunning little anemone, a Sargatia troglodytes had lots of pieces of shell stuck to its column.

March 2016 – Tubulus annulatus, a worm

Tubulanus annulatus. This strikingly coloured worm was a first for me and is more commonly seen offshore.
Tubulanus annulatus. This strikingly coloured worm was a first for me and is more commonly seen offshore.

February 2016 – Anapagurus hyndmanni, a hermit crab

It’s amazing how much wildlife has survived the winter storms. Even small and seemingly delicate creatures are thriving – like this Anapagurus hyndmanni hermit crab.

Anapagurus hyndmanni - a small species of hermit crab - showing its distinctive large white claw.
Anapagurus hyndmanni – a small species of hermit crab – showing its distinctive large white claw.

September 2015 – A male worm pipefish with a huge brood of eggs

Pipefish are related to seahorses, but instead of a pouch to carry the eggs, the male pipefish has a special groove along his belly where he looks after his partner’s brood until they hatch.

It’s always amazing to see, but I was surprised to see a ‘pregnant’ male so late in the season – it was 30 September when I found this one. He also had a particularly large clutch of eggs.

A male worm pipefish with eggs
A male worm pipefish with eggs

It’s important to keep pipefish couples together so I returned this one to its rock pool straight away.

August 2015 – Facelina annulicornis, a sea slug that’s new to me

Another new sea slug, Facelina annulicornis, turned up this month – it’s always great to find something so unusual that I need to turn to the experts to confirm identity.

This slug was so tiny that I thought it was just another amphipod (sand-hopper) at first. When I put it in water these beautiful features unfolded. The rhinophores (the antennae-like tentacles on its head) are beautifully ringed, which is where the name ‘annulicornis’ comes from.

Facelina annulicornis- a rather lovely sea slug
Facelina annulicornis- a rather lovely sea slug
Facelina coronata with its front tentacles drooping like a lion-tamer's moustache.
Facelina coronata with its front tentacles drooping like a lion-tamer’s moustache.

July 2015 – Aplysia depilans, a sea hare not often found in UK waters

A juvenile Aplysia depilans - a rare sea hare in UK waters.
A juvenile Aplysia depilans – a rare sea hare in UK waters.

It’s the first time I’ve see this species. This is just a juvenile – they can apparently grow to 30-40cm long. Unlike other species they can sucker onto rocks – this one looked like an anemone when I first found it.

I think I've found a strange anemone
I think I’ve found a strange anemone

What I loved the most is the slug’s face, which reminded me of a hippo. Is it just me?

Aplysia depilans - looking more like a sea hippo than a sea hare
Aplysia depilans – looking more like a sea hippo than a sea hare

April 2015 – Starfish and Stalked Jellyfish on my Local Beach

If I looked away for a second, it was almost impossible to spot this stalked jellyfish again.
If I looked away for a second, it was almost impossible to spot this stalked jellyfish again. This Lucernariopsis cruxmelitensis was only a centimetre or two across.

I often travel to beaches where I know I’m likely to see some of my favourite creatures or discover new ones. It turns out that my local beach, a short walk away, has some species I love and never knew were there.

Asterina phylactica are easily recognised by the little circles of colour which often form a dark central star shape
Asterina phylactica are easily recognised by the little circles of colour which often form a dark central star shape

March 2015 – Starfish Eating Habits

Common starfish eating a netted dog whelk.
Common starfish eating a netted dog whelk.
Spiny starfish eating a dog whelk
Spiny starfish eating a dog whelk

I’ve read about the way starfish eat by raising themselves above their prey and extruding their stomachs to engulf their meal. This month I’ve come across several starfish on the shore enjoying a meal. Amazing to watch.

Underside of starfish as it tucks in to a netted dog whelk.
Underside of a common starfish as it tucks in to a netted dog whelk.

February 2015 – Sea Cucumber

Sea cucumber found in shallow gravel
Sea cucumber found in shallow gravel

This worm-like creature had me baffled. Thanks to some help from the experts I discovered it is, in fact a type of sea cucumber – or at least part of one.  It’s either a Leptosynapta inhaerens or Labidoplax digitata. Sea cucumbers are relatives of the starfish and sea urchins and most have tube feet a bit like the starfish – but this species doesn’t.

It grows much longer than this, but when it is disturbed it can break into lots of small sections, each of which can regenerate into a new animal.

It just goes to show there’s always something new on the shore.

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For everyone who loves Cornwall's rock pools. Information about great beaches, marine wildlife and conservation.

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