Rockpooling at West Runton, photo by Matthew Roberts

Discover seaside soap operas during National Marine Week


Friday 25 June, 2021


Staycations mean more of us are set to discover the delights of our shores and coastal waters, as we visit the seaside for a summer break.

The Wildlife Trusts’ National Marine Week - Saturday 24 July – Sunday 8 August - is celebrating the intriguing, weird and wonderful lives of marine wildlife. They are asking people to celebrate our blue planet by making a one-minute rockpool or coastal movie and posting it on Instagram or Twitter using #NationalMarineWeek; for the chance to be featured by The Wildlife Trusts on social media and win a prize. Film a fish or linger on a limpet – and post your minute movie to celebrate the sea!

Make the most of the coast with Norfolk Wildlife Trust family events, including Coastal Creations and beach wildlife explorer events at NWT Holme Dunes; and Plankton Parties and crafts at NWT Cley Marshes.

Head of Engagement at Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Carrie Bewick, said: “Our seas are home to over half of all our wildlife. They provide oxygen for every other breath you take and food for us to eat, which is why it is so important that more and better protection is given to the waters around our shores and they are managed in a sustainable way. The coast is also a great place to exercise, relax and rejuvenate and you never know what wildlife you might spot while you are there. National Marine Week is a chance to celebrate our amazing seas, and I’d encourage people to make the most of the coast and enjoy events hosted by Norfolk Wildlife Trust.”  

 

•    Rockpools: visit West Runton in Norfolk

Battered by waves then exposed as the tide retreats, rock pools are tough places to live. The extraordinary snakelocks anemone harnesses solar power through symbiotic algae, which live in its bright green stinging tentacles. The algae turn sunlight into energy for the anemone, which is why snakelocks live in the sunniest spots in the pool. In return, the algae get benefits in the form of protection and nutrients. 

With rockpool space at a premium, the seemingly serene beadlet anemone defends its place by deploying a ring of bright blue beads full of stinging cells and battling against opponents.  

Clamped tight until the tides cover them, cone shelled limpets zigzag around, feeding on algae scraped off rocks with  their tongue, one of the world’s strongest biological structures! Returning to their home patch, limpets sometimes clash shells; trying to tip each other over or prise their opponent from a rock. No one’s quite sure why, it could be territory or feeding disputes, but one thing’s for sure they’re not the motionless shells they appear to be.  

 

•    Chalk reefs

Chalk reefs are the UK’s equivalent of the Great Barrier Reef, and support a huge diversity of marine life, from starfish and sponges, to shoals of fish. Marine chalk is a globally rare habitat, 75% of all chalk reefs in Europe are found off the South coast; many of them protected by Marine Conservation Zones.

Holes in the chalk are the work of piddocks, also known as angel wings because of the shape of their long oval shell, which has very sharp teeth at one end to burrow into the soft rock. At night, bioluminescence means the edge of the shell glows blue-green.

Underwater chalk cliffs are home to sponges and shelter catsharks, lobsters, and spider crabs. Spider crabs pick seaweed and sponge to decorate and camouflage themselves, using their claws to fix the ‘decoration’ onto hook- like hairs between spines on their shells. 

North Norfolk’s chalk reef, with boulders, stacks and arches, is 20 miles long. It supports 350 species; from red seaweeds to shoals of silvery scad or horse mackerel. Ten years ago, during a National Marine Week survey, divers found a distinctive purple sponge which hadn’t been seen before, later identified as new to science! This year children in Norfolk were asked to name the sponge, it’s now called the Parpal Dumplin, because it’s purple and looks like a dumpling!
 
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