|Strawberry anemone with tentacles retracted|
For me rock-pooling transcends age and maturity. I get as much joy and excitement poking under rocks and in crevices as I did as a kid. In contrast I often find sandy beaches boring. Rocky seashores provide opportunities for startling discoveries and a glimpse into life under water. There was the time I came across a dogfish trapped in a rock pool and another when I first discovered blue-rayed limpets adorning kelp like miniature landing strips for alien sea craft.Last week I was indulging in such activity at Ness beach near Shaldon, a hidden treasure only accessible by an original smugglers tunnel cut through the cliff (Smuggler’s Britain, 2013). The red cliffs enclose a mainly shingle beach, but at either end are large areas of rocky seashore. It was amongst these rocks that I found a real treasure clinging limply – A Strawberry anemone (Actinia fragacea), a large relative of the commoner Beadlet anemone (Actinia equina). These fruity creatures, strawberry red flecked with pip like greeny-yellow spots, can grow up to 10cm long (excluding tentacles). These are primitive carnivorous animals using stinging cells in their tentacles to capture prey (including small fish) that then pass the food into a simple stomach (Oakley, 2010).
Like its namesake this anemone enjoys a warm climate, being a southern species present in the Channel as far east as Brighton, but is expected to respond to climate change in UK waters (Kendall, et al., 2004) – it otherwise commonly occurs in Mediterranean and West Africa. So as global temperatures rise we are likely to see more of these gems smuggling onto our rocky shores - happy hunting.
Kendall, M.A. , Burrows, M.T., Southward, A.J & Hawkins, S (2004). Predicting the effects of marine climate change on the invertebrate prey of the birds of rocky shores. Ibis (146): 40-47Oakley, J. (2010) Seashore Safaris. Cardiff: Graffeg Books
Smugglers Britain (2013) The South Devon Coast [Online]. http://www.smuggling.co.uk/gazetteer_sw_10.html [Accessed 9/02/13]