UK: unusual marine wildlife at Cornwall beaches

Gulf weed crab, Planes minutusFrom WildLife Extra:

Unusual marine wildlife hits Cornwall

During the winter 2006/7, the beaches of West Country experienced a spate of unusual and fascinating strandings.

The mild weather and strong westerly winds brought all kinds of warm water visitors ranging from amongst others, millions of By-the- wind-sailors, velella and their much rarer and beautiful predators the ocean-going Violet sea snails.

Also Buoy and Goose barnacles, tropical Sea Beans of various kinds, dozens of dead Grey Triggerfish and a live Kemps Ridley turtle.

Gulf weed crab

Stimulated by the discovery of the rare Gulf Weed Crab in Dorset and Cornwall, the first British records for about a hundred years, marine wildlife expert and founder member of the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, Stella Turk, alerted local naturalists to keep a look-out for these exotic crustaceans.

Rory Goodall of eco-tourism company Elemental Tours, kept an eye on the flotsam and jetsam on his local beach at Sennen near Land’s End and over the period of a month was rewarded with finds of warm water oceanic Violet sea snails, Grey Triggerfish, a Sea purse, the seed of a tropical vine from Central America, and secreted away between dozens of Goose Barnacles, four small crabs.

Matt Slater of the Blue Reef Aquarium Newquay takes up the story.

’Rory found the Gulf Weed Crabs attached to a fishing buoy along with a colony of Goose Barnacles, and immediately contacted me at the aquarium.

The tiny ocean wanderers, also known as Columbus Crabs, (named after the famous explorer who supposedly first discovered them) are an extremely rare find.

They originate in the Sargasso Sea, and must have drifted all the way across the Atlantic.

They are related to Sally Lightfoot crabs, and have flattened shells and legs, with sharp hooked tips to the legs, perfectly adapted to a lifetime of clinging tightly to their rides.’

‘As well as buoys and rafts of seaweed, the crabs sometimes hitch rides on turtles and can be swept up by the Gulf Stream, travelling thousands of miles to British shores.

Unfortunately one crab has died, but the other three are doing well after their epic voyage. We’ve put them on display in a tank heated to a temperature much more to their liking, – 25 degrees c!’

September 2012. Volunteers from Cornwall Wildlife Trust were recently treated to some interesting finds during a county-wide survey of life on some important rocky shores. The ‘shore search’ survey was carried out at St Agnes, Polzeath, Looe, Fowey and Helford over four days, which saw some of the lowest spring tides of the year: here.

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