Rocky shores can be incredibly diverse places in terms of the number of different species that live there. Animals use the safety of crevices, rocks and seaweeds to attach to, feed on or hide amongst. The area between the high and low tide is viewed as one of the most treacherous places on the planet to live on. During the day the creatures living on the rocky shore must contend with different levels of salt in the water, drying out, heating or cooling or being eaten in a place which can often get slammed hard by crashing waves. Ensuring we take care of this special habitat and its wildlife is one less worry for them.
Remember that many creatures have a home territory. If you are looking for creatures in rockpools or along rocky shores, please return them all to where they came from and replace any rocks you have overturned.
Limpets leave a chemical slime trail behind them while moving around grazing on algae at high tide, and follow this back to their home ‘scar’ when the tide starts to drop. If moved to a different rock pool they will not be able to find their way back and may die.
Many species of crabs live on our rocky shores, scavenging for food in pools and under rocks. Be very careful when handling them, only ever holding them from above by the two sides of their shell. Crabs are quite agile and even small ones can give a very painful nip.
Wintering birds such as purple sandpiper and turnstone also spend time on rocky shores. Take extra care not to disturb them and they have flown a long way!
Rocky shores can be exposed or sheltered and if you can’t tell which then have a look at how tall the limpets clinging to the rocks are. If they’re generally quite tall then it’s a sheltered spot but on an exposed shore they need to try to lie low against the rock so are flatter.
Clinging to the rocks can help much of our marine wildlife keep to one place of the shore. Sometimes space is limited and creatures such as beadlet anemones (those red blobs you find stuck to the rock) fight for territory. These animals will fight each other using harpoons filled with stings to keep hold of a good spot on the rock.
Many animals and seaweed can cope with being out of the water and show a diverse array of ways to keep hold of moisture until the tide comes back in.
Man-made sea defences can act a bit like a rocky shore and provide home for some seaweeds and marine animals (something researchers are keen to promote drilling mini rockpools in rocks to see who moves in).
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