Beachcombing

"Beachcombing" is the study of animals, or their remains, and other life washed up by the sea onto the beach strandline. Searching this strandline can be very rewarding. As well as clearing litter it's possible to find all kinds of other bits and pieces deposited there from further out to sea.

Shells:

Traditionally children will collect shells washed up by the sea. The blue teardrop shaped shells of the common mussel, pearly white on the inside, are one of the commonest.

Driftwood:

Bits of timber washed up on the beach are often smooth and rounded after a long period of scouring out at sea. They can make nice ornaments, but are also often home to other wildlife such as barnacles. So take some if you want to but remember it can be a home for wildlife and always take care to leave some behind.

Crab carapaces:

What appears to be a 'shell' from the back of a crab is actually its strong external skeleton. This cannot grow as a crab grows, so every now and then they shed them and grow a new, larger one. The shed carapace will wash up on the beach over time.

Egg cases:

Some species that lay eggs at sea lay them in cases, which then wash up on the beach. Skates and rays produce pouches commonly known as 'mermaid's purses'

Cuttlefish.

To many people, the incredibly light, white cuttlefish is familiar from being sold in pet shops as a calcium source for pet birds like budgerigars. It is actually the internal shell of the cuttlefish, which is a relative of the octopus. Although it lives in the sea and despite its name, the cuttlefish is not a fish- it is a mollusc (like snails), hence the form of 'shell' that is left behind when it dies.

Seaweed:

Big patches of seaweed can be a little bit smelly after a while- but they are fascinating, and home to all kinds of other wildlife. They come in three main colours- red, brown and green. How many can you find?

Minibeasts:

You'll find lots of seaweed washed up on the strandline. Turn it over, and it will probably be hopping with minibeasts. Even plastic litter can sometimes provide a home for these tiny creatures. They in turn provide food for lots of birds, which is why you often see birds like turnstone and ringed plover on the strandline.

Jellyfish:

You can often see jellyfish that have been washed ashore and remain on the strandline. Several different species are commonly recorded in south Wales. Many are harmless but do not touch- some can give you a nasty sting, even when they are dead.

Whelk eggs:

Whelks are a kind of sea snail whose shells you can see often in rockpools. They produce their eggs in a kind of cluster that is often mistaken for a kind of large-celled polystyrene!

 

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