Category Archives: Sealife in British seas

Magic of seahorses

Photograph: Steve Trewhella
Photograph: Steve Trewhella

The Guardian has an extract from an amazing new book about seahorses – Poseidon’s Steed by Helen Scales.  It’s filled with beautiful, vivid descriptions:

Should we presume these odd-looking creatures were designed by a mischievous god who had some time on her hands? Rummaging through a box labelled “spare parts”, she finds a horse’s head and, feeling a desire for experimentation, places it on top of the pouched torso of a kangaroo.

This playful god adds a pair of swivelling chameleon eyes and the prehensile tail of a tree-dwelling monkey for embellishment – then stands back to admire her work. Not bad, but how about a suit of magical colour-changing armour, and a crown shaped as intricately and uniquely as a human fingerprint? Shrink it all down to the size of a chess piece and the new creature is complete.

And fascinating facts: Continue reading Magic of seahorses

Sea-life choked by algae

Algae is thriving this warm wet British summer, choking the life out of the sea and mudflats. It’s a problem expected to grow in the future, and the only solution is to cut off the nutrients on which it thrives – sewage pollution or fertilisers leaking from farms. There is also concern about the toxicity of algae when it begins to rot.  Daily Telegraph

Close encounter with Fin whales

Members of Sea Trust had a spectacularly close view of a group of Fin whales who were feeding on mackerel off the Pembrokeshire coast. One swam directly under their boat. The Fin whale is the second largest animal in the world after the Blue whale, weighing around 60-70 tons, but they are relatively fast swimmers, due to their streamlined shape. Sightings in the area are increasing. See the BBC and Wikipedia

Grey Seals in Britain

Two surprising things about Grey Seals: their size – males can be up to 3 metres long, making them Britain’s largest land-breeding mammals – and their number – nearly half the world’s Grey Seal population live on British coasts.

A hundred years ago, there were fears about their survival, which led to the Grey Seal Protection Act of 1914, one of the first conservation laws of its kind.  With hunting prohibited in the breeding season, their numbers began to grow from an estimated 1,000 to the current 225,000. Continue reading Grey Seals in Britain

Portuguese Man O’ War reach Cornwall

A group of eight Portuguese Man O’ War were found strewn on Tregantle beach near Whitsand Bay. Experts say they expect more to be brought in by prevailing winds. Daily Telegraph. These creatures, which are not actually jellyfish but a species called siphonophores, live in warmer waters than those around the UK but global warming is believed to be pushing them further north – ever closer towards Britain. They can in extreme cases provoke a cardiac arrest and death in particularly sensitive persons.

It is also interesting note that  Portuguese Man O’ War have also been seen increasingly more often on the coasts of Spain.

Note the English and Spanish etymology comes from the creature’s air bladder, which looks similar to the triangular sails of the 15th.century Portuguese man-of-war Caravela latina.

Protecting seahorses in Britain

An anchor-free zone has been created in Dorset’s Studland Bay to protect Britain’s biggest seahorse breeding colony.  Locals have mixed feelings about this, some worrying about a decline in boating visitors.

Britain’s population of seahorses appears to be on the rise, but connections with global warming have been downplayed.  Factors behind the jump in seahorse sightings include the general public’s increased awareness of their existence and the way internet makes it easier to report and gather data.  Neil Garrick-Maidment, Director of the UK’s Seahorse Trust, believes  fluctuations in populations of seahorses – and other sea life – are chiefly influenced by the constantly shifting Gulf Stream.   Daily Telegraph.

Giant jellyfish hit Scotland

Thousands of jellyfish measuring up to half a metre in length have been found on beaches in Scotland, thanks to the recent rise in sea temperatures which are currently two degrees above normal. Specimens are growing to their full growth potential. “The hot summer weather has also fuelled the growth of the lion’s mane jellyfish, the largest to visit UK shores. The tentacles of the lion’s mane jellyfish, which is easily identified by its ragged edges, carry a nasty sting which can leave unsuspecting swimmers in pain for hours.”

The Independent