Top 5 Small Marine Life Encounters In The UK

Top 5 Small Marine Life Encounters In The UK

Believe it or not, there is some truly incredible marine life living off and traveling along the coasts of the UK! It is a common misconception that you need to dive abroad in order to see anything worthwhile.... This could not be so far from the truth! Below is a list of 5 marine encounters (the smaller stuff!) that should definitely be on your bucket list. The best thing is.... you can encounter them all in the UK!

Nudibranchs

The name nudibranch means 'naked gill'. This refers to their fascinating external respiratory organs. The respiratory organs are seen in all different shapes and sizes depending on the species of nudibranch you are lucky enough to encounter. The processes commonly take the shape of a branchial plume, club or leaf or can be found along the sides of the body in a lateral groove. Nudibranchs are opisthobranch molluscs. The adult stage has completely lost both the shell and operculum. The loss of the shell has allowed these molluscs to evolve into a diverse and astonishing array of body forms and colours. There are approximately 110 recorded species of Nudibranchs found around our British Isles.

Seahorse

The seahorse is an amazing creature and one I have always been fascinated by. Our UK waters are home to two species of seahorse. The short snouted and the spiny seahorse. Similar in size, they both have a maximum length of about 15cm. They are most commonly found in and around shallow and inshore waters. Make sure you search amongst the seagrass and seaweeds which they hold onto with their tails. Being predominantly a warmer water species, neither of the two has a wide distribution around the UK. The spiny seahorse has the widest distribution being found in northern Scotland and parts of Wales as well as sharing the waters of the English Channel, west coast of England and southern Irish coast with its short snouted relative. A couple of interesting facts about seahorses include their ability to change colour (to a limited extent) to blend in with their surroundings. Also when it comes to reproduction, the female passes her clutch of eggs on to the male to be fertilised within his own body. The eggs remain within the males pouch for between 10 and 25 days before emerging, tiny but fully formed.

Sea Stars

There are over 2000 different species of starfish, these unique marine animals have various different colours, shapes, and sizes. Starfish, also known as Sea Stars, is one of the most beautiful looking animals in the vast ocean. They have surprisingly unusual anatomy, with no brain or blood, yet are able to digest food outside their body. We think that Sea Stars are fascinating and you will too thanks to the following Sea Star facts!

Starfish can regenerate their own arms. Regenerating their own arms is perhaps one of the most useful things a starfish can do. This attribute can be used in many different ways. Arms can be lost when a starfish comes in contact with a predator, or it may be amputated in order to hide or escape from one. Arms can take months, even years to fully regenerate, so it has to be a pretty serious situation to lose one. Incredibly, if the severed leg is not harmed, it can heal itself and even regenerate - resulting in a genetically identical starfish. Pretty cool, right?

They have no brain or blood! With no brain or blood it seems crazy to think starfish can survive in the depth of the vast ocean. However, they find very clever and simple ways to get around it. Seawater is pumped throughout their body as a replacement for blood, with the water delivering key nutrients to the starfish allowing its organs to function properly. The use of water saves space as there is no need for a complex blood system, also since seawater is highly abundant they will never run out of it. Starfish may have no brain, but they are certainly not fools!

They wear tough, leathery skin Starfish are layered with an upper skin made out of calcium carbonate. This strong material makes the skin tough and difficult for hunters to breakdown. Some species of starfish will even go a step further with the addition of numerous spines on their skin, acting as a layer of armour to deter predators.

Starfish have eyes. Lacking a brain, blood, and even a central nervous system, it might come as a surprise to you that starfish have eyes. Just to further add to their unusual anatomy, their eyes are on the end of their arms. Whilst their eyes may not be able to see in fine detail as our eyes can, they are able to detect different shades of light allowing them to navigate their surroundings - allowing them to hunt for food and hide from predators.

Starfish move with hundreds of feet Starfish is equipped with hundreds of tiny little feet at the end of each arm. To move, they fill these feet with seawater, causing the arm to move as a foot would. This mechanism allows the starfish to move - much quicker than you might expect.

Starfish can eat outside their body due to their tiny mouth on the underside of their body, starfish have adapted an ingenious way of eating things larger than it can fit in their mouth. They have a stomach that can digest food outside their body so that it can fit in their mouth. This allows the food to be further broken down inside the body. Not all starfish are star-shaped, however, most are, hence their grouped name. However, there are a few special cases.

The Cushion Starfish has a round blob-like shape while having all the genetic qualities needed to be a starfish. This starfish is actually much gentler than other starfish, feeding on detritus and plants. Other starfish will tend to feed on clams or oysters.

Crabs

Around 65 species of crab occur in the waters of the British Isles.All are marine, with the exception of the introduced Chinese mitten crab, which occurs in fresh and brackish water. They range in size from the deep-water species Paromola cuvieri, which can reach a claw span of 1.2 metres (3 ft 11 in), to the pea crab, which is only 4 mm (0.16 in) wide and lives inside mussel shells.

Cephalopods

The octopus, the squid, the nautilus and the cuttlefish are some of the most extraordinary creatures on this planet, intelligent and yet apparently unlike other life forms. They are cephalopods and are part of the mollusc family like snails and clams, and they have some characteristics in common with those. What sets them apart is the way members of their group can change colour, camouflage themselves, recognise people, solve problems, squirt ink, power themselves with jet propulsion and survive both on land, briefly, and in the deepest, coldest oceans. Without bones or shells, they grow so rapidly they can outstrip their rivals when habitats change, making them the great survivors and adaptors of the animal world.

Cephalopods have advanced vision, can detect gravity with statocysts, and have a variety of chemical sense organs. Octopuses use their arms to explore their environment and can use them for depth perception.

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