Common Cuttlefish

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Common Cuttlefish

Cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) are relatives of squid and octopuses. They are predators, living out in water up to 200metres deep but coming into shallow, weedy waters to breed. When they die, the large chalky internal shell, known as ‘cuttle bones’ often wash up on the beach.

They can flash different colours and pattersn to distract predators or attract mates.

How to Identify
Cuttle bones are white and chalky, oval shaped with thin harder ‘wings’ at one end. Cuttlefish are thick-set squid that grow up to 30cm long, often with brownish tiger stripes.

Distribution
Found around the coasts of England and Wales.

Credit
A recommended reference book for further information is the ‘Great British Marine Animals’ by Paul Naylor. (www.marinephoto.co.uk)

Photo Credit: © Copyright Paul Naylor

www.makingwavesproject.org.uk

www.wildlifewatch.org.uk

Common Sun-star

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Common Sun-star

The common sun-star (Crossaster papposus) is a distinctive sun-like starfish, with about 10 to 12 relatively short ‘legs’, up to 35 cm across. A beautiful starfish, usually orangey in colour with bands of paler yellow and richer red on the legs. Covered with small spines.

How to Identify
More sun-shaped, with more legs, than other star fish.

Distribution
Found all round our shores.

Credit
A recommended reference book for further information is the ‘Great British Marine Animals’ by Paul Naylor. (www.marinephoto.co.uk)

Photo Credit: © Copyright Paul Naylor

www.makingwavesproject.org.uk

www.wildlifewatch.org.uk

Common Hermit Crab

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Common Hermit Crab

Hermit crabs (Pagurus bernhardus) live inside the empty shells of snail-like animals, particularly whelks and periwinkles. They live on sandy and rocky shores, where they scavenge on plant and animal remains. They have hard pincers, but a soft body which is hidden inside the shell.

How to Identify
This is the largest of several species of very similar hermit crabs.

Distribution
Found all round our shores.

Credit
A recommended reference book for further information is the ‘Great British Marine Animals’ by Paul Naylor. (www.marinephoto.co.uk)

Photo Credit: © Copyright Paul Naylor

www.makingwavesproject.org.uk

www.wildlifewatch.org.uk

Dolphin – Bottlenose

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Bottlenose Dolphin

The bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) is a large stocky dolphin around 2.5 – 3.0 metres in length and weighing 200-275 kg. They have a large sickle shaped fin and they can leap right out of the water.

The bottlenose dolphins are often seen near the coast – in bays and around harbours, although herds can also be seen far offshore, often accompanying much larger pilot whales. When individuals – usually males – become separated from the social group, they may seek contact with humans.

Diet
Although the bottlenose dolphin takes a wide variety of schooling fish including herring, mackerel, cod, bass, salmon, and sea trout, in many parts of its range around the world coastal populations are thought to favour bottom-living fish such as mullet, moray eels and flounder.

Reproduction
A single calf about a metre in length is born during the summer months, usually between March and September, with the mating having taken place twelve months before. The calf is nursed immediately by the mother, who may be assisted by other females.

If necessary, they will help the calf up to the surface for its first breath and the mother may also be assisted if she is weak. The calf is suckled for around 18-20 months, so its mother usually cannot breed again for two or three years and sometimes six years can elapse between calves. It is a long time before a young bottlenose dolphin reaches sexual maturity – between 8 and 15 years for males and 5-13 for females. However, both sexes can live for more than 25 years, and females have been known to live over 50 years, so she may give birth to several young in her lifetime.

Threats
Bottlenose dolphins face a number of modern threats. Favouring sheltered bays and estuaries with an abundance of fish, they are vulnerable to inputs of pollutants; vessel collisions and sound disturbance from large numbers of pleasure craft; and accidental capture in fishing nets, particularly coastal set nets for salmon.

Credit: © Information and photo kindly supplied by the Sea Watch Foundation

www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk

www.adoptadolphin.org.uk

Dolphin – Common

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Common Dolphin

The common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) is also known as the short-beaked common dolphin and is one of the smallest of the dolphins, measuring 2.1 – 2.4 metres in length and weighing 75 – 85 kg. The body is long and slender, as is the beak, and the dorsal fin is tall and pointed. The species is often confused with the striped dolphin Stenella coeruleoalba, but the common dolphin’s haracteristic hourglass or criss-cross pattern on its flanks is a good distinguishing feature. This patch is tan or yellowish in colour before the dorsal fin, and pale grey behind. Common dolphins are very agile and active.

They commonly bow-ride, often accompanying boats for many miles, and are capable of swimming at great speed, as well as engaging in energetic aerial acrobatics.

Diet
Mainly opportunistic feeders, the common dolphin diet is very varied, consisting chiefly of small schooling fish such as cod, hake, mackerel, sardine, pilchard, horse mackerel, scad, sprat, sand eel, herring, whiting and blue whiting, as well as squid – the type of food taken depends on local availability. Groups of dolphins often use co-operative feeding techniques to herd schools of fish, panicking the fish through frenzied activity and taking them in the confusion.

Social Behaviour
The common dolphin is a gregarious animal, often found in large, active schools. In British waters, most herds consist of less than 30 individuals, and animals often occur solitarily or in pairs, although occasional schools of more than one hundred dolphins can be seen. School size increases in mid-summer and midwinter, possibly linked to the dolphins following prey moving inshore. They are highly vocal, emitting high-pitched squeals that can often be heard easily above the surface of the water.

Common dolphins develop strong social bonds, particularly between mother and young, and males and females; if one animal is captured or injured, the other will remain in attendance, and frequently shows much distress at its companion’s plight, squeaking and squealing.

Reproduction
Common dolphins appear to have two calving peaks – spring and autumn – with a gestation period of 10 – 11 months. Other females may assist the mother with the birth and also take part in ‘baby-sitting’ while the mother feeds. Calves are 80 – 90 cm long at birth. They are weaned at the age of around 19 months, and the mother has a resting period of about four months before her next pregnancy so that calving intervals are generally 2-3 years or more. Males become sexually mature at 5-7 years of age, and females at around six years. Common
dolphins can live to 30-35 years.

Status and Distribution
In the British Isles, they are common in the western approaches to the Channel and the southern Irish Sea (particularly around the celtic Deep) and around the Inner Hebrides north to Skye. In recent years, the species has occurred further north and east in shelf seas – around Shetland and Orkney, and in the northern North Sea, reflecting changes in the strength of the Gulf Stream. It is generally rare to see them in the southern North Sea and eastern portion of the Channel.

Threats
The major threat facing common dolphins in British waters in recent years appears to be entanglement in trawl and purse seine nets in the Celtic Sea and Bay of Biscay. This has resulted in large numbers dying and subsequently being washed ashore, particularly in the southwest of Britain, due to the fact that they often prey on the same species as the fisheries, thus becoming a prime target for accidental capture. Although there is no evidence of serious organochlorine contamination in eastern North Atlantic common dolphins, specimens from the Atlantic coast of France have been found with high levels of methyl mercury (max 631 Cg/g dry weight in the liver), with levels of total mercury increasing with age.

Credit: © Information and photo kindly supplied by the Sea Watch Foundation

www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk

www.adoptadolphin.org.uk

Moon Jellyfish

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Moon Jellyfish

This jellyfish is transparent and grows up to 40cm wide. It is shaped like an umbrella and has short hair-like tentacles around the edges, and four rings towards centre. They are mostly harmless to humans, though may sting sensitive skin.

Moon jellyfish are very common all around the UK, especially in sheltered waters in the west of Scotland. You can sometimes see large numbers of these jellies when our chilly seas begin to warm up, or cool down. When this happens, it is known as a jellyfish bloom.

Photo Credit: © Copyright Jo Jamieson / MCS

www.mcsuk.org

Jewel Aemones

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Jewel Aemones

The Jewel anemone is a beautiful sea creature with spectacular colours varying from bright green, red, orange, pink and white and has a smooth column. It looks rather flat and squat in appearance, a bit like a saucer-shaped disc, but it is surrounded by up to 100 short tentacles, each having a small knob at the end. The tentacles have strong contrasting colours varying from purple, blue and white. This contrast of colours makes these creatures look very jewel like, hence the name.

Jewel anemones reproduce asexually, which in its broadest sense means that they reproduce without the bonding of a male and female but by splitting, which creates clusters of identical coloured clones to form large colonies. They prefer fast flowing water and feed on invertebrates such as sea urchins, sea stars and others. They paralyse their prey by using poison inside the tentacles and then carry their prey to their mouth which is located in the centre of the tentacles.

Photo Credit: © Copyright Sally Sharrock

www.seasearchdevon.co.uk

www.mcsuk.org

Short-Snouted Seahorse

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Seahorse

The Short-snouted Seahorse has its name because it has a head shaped like a horse and it has a short nose that is slightly upturned. It is a beautiful looking creature even though it’s body is covered with wart-like lumps, making it look rather knobbly. When swimming it keeps in an upright position and uses a fin that is situated in the middle of its body to propel forward. When it wants to climb on plants or seaweed it uses its long tail to grip so it won’t be washed away by strong currents.

This seahorse can be difficult to detect under water as it is capable of changing colour to either brown or orange, and other colours too so it adapts to its surroundings. It does this so it is better camouflaged, which is a good thing seeing that humans like to have them as souvenirs because they dry out intact.

The Short-snouted Seahorse has excellent eyesight and unlike human eyes it can move its eyes independently which means it can look forwards and backwards at the same time. This makes hunting for food easier for seahorses especially since they only use their eyes to hunt. When they find something to eat they suck their food up through their snouts – similar to how a hoover sucks up dirt. They eat on average about 40 times a day but they don’t chew their food, they just break it up into pieces.

When seahorses find a partner they stay together for life and after the courtship dance and mating, the female lays her eggs in a special pouch located on the front part of the male’s body. Once she has done that, the male takes over the responsibility of looking after the young until they are ready to hatch.

Photo Credit: © Copyright Sally Sharrock

www.seasearchdevon.co.uk

www.mcsuk.org

Basking Shark

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Basking Shark

The basking shark is Britain’s largest fish, growing up to 11 metres long and weighing up to seven tonnes – about the size and weight of a double-decker bus! We used to see lots of basking sharks in our waters, but they are considered to be endangered in UK waters after being hunted for their liver oil in the past.

Now they are protected, but as their numbers are increasing, they still face threats of getting tangled in fishing line, disturbance at their surface feeding sites and illegal fishing for their valuable fins. By finding out more about these spectacular animals, we will have a better idea of how to protect them.

Activity
You can take part in the Marine Conservation Society’s (MCS) Basking Shark Watch programme! If you are lucky enough to spot one of these gentle giants, MCS would love to hear from you. Simply report your sightings by visiting their website.

Photo Credit: © Copyright Jeremy Stafford Deitsch

www.mcsuk.org

Tompot Blenny

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Tompot Blenny

Tompot Blenny (Parablennius gattorugine) a medium-sized elongated, large-headed, large-eyed fish found in crevices amongst rocks below the low tide line. Grows up to 30cm long. Orangey-brown in colour, sometimes greenish, with several darker bars running down the body. Has two branched, feathery tentacles on the top of the head, one above each eye.

How to Identify
The largest British blenny.

Distribution
Found around south and west coasts

Photo Credit: © Copyright Paul Naylor

www.wildlifewatch.org.uk

Killer Whale

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Killer Whale

The killer whale (Orcinus orca) or orca, is a very striking creature, black on the back and sides with its white belly extending as a rear pointing lobe up the flanks. It has a conspicuous white oval patch above and behind the eye, and a grey saddle on the back just behind the fin. Females are 5.5-6.5m and males are 6.7-7.0m length.

The dorsal fin is very tall (up to 1.8m), triangular, and erect (sometimes tilted forwards) in the adult male. The female and immatures have a smaller, distinctly curved fin. At sea the species is easily identified by its conspicuous black & white coloration and tall dorsal fin.

Diet
As well as feeding on fish (e.g. salmon, herring, cod, mackerel, etc), and squid, killer whales also feed on marine mammals (seals, sea-lions, elephant seals, dolphins & porpoises, as well as other whales), and birds. The killer whale’s broad jaw, relatively few teeth, and very powerful jaw muscles almost certainly aid the retention of large prey. Its reputation for feeding on other marine mammals is, however, probably exaggerated. For most populations, the diet seems to be primarily fish such as salmon and cod, and also cephalopods like squid.

Social Behaviour
Solitary killer whales may be encountered, but close-knit family groups, called pods, are typical. Pods normally contain 5 to 20 animals but occasionally two or more pods may come together temporarily forming superpods which can contain 150 or more animals. Killer whales are inquisitive and often approachable and may be seen breaching, lobtailing, flipper-slapping, and spy-hopping. Members of a pod usually stay together for life, with both sexes remaining in their natal group throughout adulthood, a social system which is seemingly unique among cetaceans.

Reproduction
Females become sexually active at an age of at least 7 years and males at an age of around 10-12 years. Mating occurs throughout the year but in the northern hemisphere they tend to give birth to a single calf from October-December. The gestation period is 13-16 months and lactation then lasts for more than 12 months.

The calf dependency period is prolonged, and calves may remain with their mothers for as long as 10 years in extreme cases. The normal calving interval is 3-3.5 years in the North Atlantic. Female killer whales live to around 90 years and males to 60 years.

Distribution
Killer whales have a worldwide distribution in temperate and subpolar seas in both hemispheres. They are widely distributed on the Atlantic seaboard of northern Europe, mainly around Iceland, the Lofoten Islands and off Andenes in Western Norway, and in Northern Scotland, but they are occasionally seen south to the Iberian Peninsula, Azores, Madeira and rarely into the Mediterranean Sea.

Around the British Isles, most sightings occur along the Atlantic seaboard and in the northern North Sea. The species occasionally enters the Irish Sea, mainly occurring off the coasts of SW Wales. It is scarce in the Channel and virtually absent from the southernmost North Sea.

Overall population estimates do not exist, but recent sightings surveys mainly from Iceland to the Faroes indicate a population in this region of somewhere between 3,500 and 12,500 individuals.

Threats
Commercial fisheries for killer whales existed between 1938 and 1981 when a total of 2,455 were taken primarily by Norway both in Norwegian coastal waters and offshore, including the seas around Northern Britain. Whaling continues in some areas, for example Greenland, Lesser Antilles, Indonesia and Japan. In Greenland, killer whales are considered a pest and killing is encouraged by government policy. Reported catch estimates are considered to be serious under-estimates.

Killer whales are also captured for public display. Iceland has supplied most animals in recent years. However, following public pressure arising from the cinema film “Free Willy”, one captive orca called “Keiko” was returned to Icelandic waters in summer 1998.

By-catches are another threat to killer whales, with animals caught in gill nets (e.g. in the Indian Ocean) and in mackerel purse-seine fisheries (e.g. in the eastern North Atlantic north of Shetland).

Concerns have also been expressed that toxic chemicals, accumulating in the fish prey of killer whales, will be passed to them through the food chain (high pollution levels were recently recorded in bottom dwelling fish in Puget Sound, Pacific Northwest).

Information and Photo kindly supplied by the Sea Watch Foundation

www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk

Long Finned Pilot Whale

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Long Finned Pilot Whale

The long-finned pilot whale (Globicephala melas), is a medium-sized whale, with a bulbous forehead and a short, almost imperceptible beak. The mouth-line is curved upwards, and the blowhole is set slightly to the left of centre on the top of the head.

Male long-finned pilot whales attain lengths of 5.5m to over 6m. Females are smaller at around 4 to 4.5m, with a maximum of 5.5m. Sexual size dimorphism is obvious: mature males are up to a metre or so longer than females, and almost double their maximum weight. The dorsal fin is fairly low and long-based, sickle-shaped to flag-shaped with age, and located relatively far forward on the back. The species has a black or dark grey head and back, a greyish-white anchor-shaped patch on the chin, and a grey area on the belly.

At sea, it is recognised as slow-swimming with a bulbous head, a dark back, a low fin, and long flippers.

Diet
The pilot whale diet varies between years and according to body size and reproductive status of the whale. Pilot whales feed year round and prey type reflects local availability and abundance to some extent. Cephalopods (squid, cuttlefish and octopus) form the bulk of pilot whale prey.

Social Behaviour
The social behaviour and mating system of pilot whales has not yet been fully elucidated, but they are extremely social and show strong herding behaviour. Pods may sometimes rest motionless at the surface allowing boats to approach closely. They sometimes bow-ride and lob tailing and spy-hopping are often observed. Adults rarely breach but young animals may.

Pods of pilot whales range in size from less than ten to more than 1000 individuals. Studies of several groups that stranded around the British Isles demonstrated some uniformity in group size, all groups consisting of 23 to 40 animals. Free-swimming groups, however, observed in British waters were usually of fewer than 20 individuals Previous mass strandings in Britain have involved as many as 148 animals, and over 60 on several occasions.

Reproduction
Females become sexually mature at about 7 years of age, with males maturing later, between 11 to 16 years of age. Males may become socially mature and mate successfully some years after this. Mating may take place all year round but conceptions peak in April to June. The gestation period was calculated to be 15.5 months in Newfoundland. Long-finned pilot whales are thought to have a life span of around 50 years, with the females living longer than males.

Distribution
Long-finned pilot whales are common and widely distributed in deep waters of the north-eastern Atlantic from the Iberian peninsula north to Iceland. They are also widely distributed in British and Irish waters, occurring in all areas except the eastern English Channel and the southernmost part of the North Sea. Whales seasonally enter coastal waters around the Faroe Islands, North Scotland, Western Ireland and the Channel approaches west of England.

Threats
There is a long history of exploitation of long-finned pilot whales in the Northern Hemisphere. Organised drives have taken place for at least eleven centuries in the Faroe Islands, where an annual catch of several thousand has persisted for several hundred years and continue to some extent to the present day. These Faroese hunts have been the subject of much concern and controversy in recent years because of the inhumane methods used and the question of whether the once ‘subsistence’ hunt is now necessary from a socio-economic or nutritional point of view. There are also concerns that consuming pilot whale meat may be posing a significant health risk due to the high levels of pollutants within it, particularly metals such as mercury and cadmium and PCBs and other organochlorines. This pollution is obviously also a concern for the health of pilot whales. Underwater noise pollution may also be a concern.

In the Mediterranean, long-finned pilot whale vocalisations were studied while active military sonar was being broadcast. Vocalisations were found to alter in response to the noise that dominated the acoustic environment over a significant range. The significance of such changes to cetacean vocalisation is unknown.

Information and Photo kindly supplied by the Sea Watch Foundation

www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk

www.adoptadolphin.org.uk