Discover the real Rocky Horror Show this National Marine Week, 23 July – 7 August, when The Wildlife Trusts celebrate our awesome sea life! Summer is simply not complete without a day at the seaside – but is life in our rockpools quite as placid as it seems?
Dip into rockpools, keep an eye out for fins amongst the waves and see what other surprises our sea might offer this summer. National Marine Week offers shoals of events to holiday makers and locals alike to enjoy the real Rocky Horror Show. For inspiration, activities and compelling short films see www.wildlifetrusts.org/rockpools
Joan Edwards, The Wildlife Trusts’ Head of Living Seas, said: “Exploring rockpools is often our first experience of the marine environment – and life in these pools is no picnic… Conditions are tough for the weird and wonderful creatures that live there, from warring anemones to lurking devil crabs. Time spent watching is a window into the trials and tribulations of the world beneath the waves.”
The rocky shores that fringe the islands of the United Kingdom are home to a colourful cast of characters…
The re-generation game – Starfish can re-grow arms and their stomach too! When eating a scallop or mussel, the starfish regurgitates its stomach out through its mouth and stuffs it into the shell of its prey. It digests the prey into a seafood soup before re-swallowing it, stomach and all. If threatened mid-meal, the starfish bites off its stomach, leaving it inside the prey’s shell, and crawls way. It will lie low until its new stomach has grown.
Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not – The cuckoo wrasse is one of the UK’s most colourful fish; females are peachy-orange in colour and males neon blue. All are born female but the leading fish will change sex – adopting vivid blue markings to advertise its new-found masculinity. It is likely (though not yet confirmed) that cuckoo wrasse exhibit a phenomenon recorded in other fish species – ‘sneaky male syndrome’ – whereby some fish change into males without changing colour – which means they can breed with females without being found out by the alpha male.
Extreme makeover – Sea squirts go through the ultimate in extreme body makeovers. When they reach adulthood, they digest their own brain. The juvenile sea squirt is a tadpole-like animal with a complex nervous system but adults are much simpler. They are attached to the seabed and just filter water for a living. As they no longer need a sophisticated brain and nerves, they simply digest them!
Keeping everyone happy – The hermaphrodite sea hare – a slug – indulges male and female desires simultaneously. They form mating chains, even complete circles, as each slug plays female to the slug behind and male to the slug in front.
A Knight’s tale – Barnacles have the longest penis in relation to body size of any animal: ten times its height. As adults, they cement themselves to a rock. Unable to move around to find a mate, the barnacle unfurls its member, which roves around for receptive partners within reach. This can sometimes lead to jousting matches between neighbouring barnacles.
Rockpool etiquette! Rockpooling is the perfect activity for families and intrepid coastal explorers alike; it’s free, accessible to all and the only equipment required is a keen eye and a curious mind. Be careful to leave everything as you find it, putting all creatures back into the pool where you found them and not scraping any residents off the rocks.
No matter where you live in the UK, you’re never more than 70 miles from the coast – and rocky shores aren’t hard to find. But even if your nearest coast is definitively sandy, then don’t despair – there are strandline safaris and sandcastle building contests to help you celebrate our amazing Living Seas.
National Marine Week events: A shoal of rocky, sandy and even inland events to celebrate our seas will be spread over 16 days so that individual Wildlife Trusts can incorporate a low tide. All across the UK, Isle of Man and Alderney, staff and volunteers will be sharing their knowledge so, whether you want to find out more about gory rituals of rockpool life or enjoy a whale and dolphin watch with all the family, there will be events at which to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the sea and learn more about its riches. See http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/whats-on