Sunday, January 16, 2011


This is probably the low point of the year for exploring life in seaside rock pools but if you search amongst the fronds of seaweeds like the red Ceramium and green Cladophora, that can still be found on sheltered parts of the shore, and take them home for microscopic examination you can still find a wealth of marine life in miniature. Here, beautifully camouflaged in a flecked green exoskeleton, is a sea slater Idotea sp.
The multi-facetted compound eye of Idotea is exceptionally beautiful.

In amongst the weed and hanging from the surface film in the rockpool you'll almost certainly find large numbers of juvenile gastropod molluscs, each only a couple of millimetres long - this one is almost certainly a Littorina (winkle) species. Notice the single dark eye at the base of each antenna.

Acarine mites are incredibly diverse animals that live in almost every habitat imaginable (click here for more information on them). Scores of these little 8-legged animals, each only about a millimetre long, were scurrying around amongst the seaweed fronds. Not much is known about the ecology of marine mites, which mostly belong to a single family - the Halacaridae. Notice the long, hooked claws that stop them from being washed out of their seaweed shelter, and the piercing mouthparts at the head end. There's a short video clip below.

You can find more on freshwater marine mites here.