Intertidal Sciences blog | Dr Mike Kent | Jan 24th 2019

New life for a New Year.

A sea slug laying a ribbon of eggs on the slate at Baby Bay.

If ever you need to be reminded that God created an amazing world teeming with life, just go down to the rocky shore at Polzeath, get down on your hands and knees and take a close look at what’s there. We did this yesterday. Despite the day being cold and windy, and the sea being in tumult, a wealth of wildlife was revealed by the receding tide.   We saw blue-rayed limpets and bright yellow periwinkles grazing on brown weeds, dogwhelks and sea anemones with colours that would test any artist’s palette, hermit crabs scuttling along the bottom of rock pools, and shore crabs being as pugnacious as ever. But as well as these prominent creatures, there was a myriad of other things that covered the rocks from midshore to low shore. Countless millions of barnacles and mussels, each with its own individual story were stuck to the rocks, waiting for the incoming tide to bring them their next meal. Smelly orange and yellow sponges and hundreds of species of seaweed, from encrusting reds, to foliose greens, and bushy browns formed living carpets on slate and granite. Hardly a patch of rock was devoid of life.

I was at Baby Bay with other enthusiasts from Polzeath Marine Conservation Group and Tubestation. We were there to search for signs of new life, eggs and other reproductive bodies, as part of the Beach Babies Survey. The information we collect will help identify the time of year different species reproduce in different locations across the UK. But this was only an excuse. Ask any of us and you’d probably find that our real reason for being on the shore was to get another dose of awe and wonder at seeing our amazing marine wildlife. As well as the expectation of seeing our resident life forms, there’s also the exciting possibility of finding something unusual or new. We were not disappointed. Eagle-eyed Faye discovered three sea slugs belonging to the species Onchidoris bilamellata gathered on open rock, and used her ‘phone to capture images of one in the process of laying eggs: new life for the New Year.

I started this blog suggesting that you go down on your hands and knees to discover for yourself that our rocky shores are teeming with life. I end it by suggesting that if you have been as lucky as we were yesterday in experiencing the wonders of life on our shore, you should join me in going down on our hands and knees and give praise to the One who made

… the sea, great and wide,

creeping things innumerable are there,

living things both great and small.

Psalm 104:24-25