After sharing this post in 2013, I was always fasinated by how it kept being discussed many years later. I never really considered 'the red blob' as important either. I thought they were useless things too....Seamas Mac an Iomaire, chronicling the shores of Connemara a century ago, sea anemones were "useless things". "The crabs don't even like them, and very little else can be said about them." So, lets see why they are so popular?
The red blobs of jelly are actually the Beadlet Anemone (Actinia equina)
Beadlet anemone is probably the most familiar anemone found on Ireland's shores. It is extremely well adapted to life on the shore. It catches its prey with the stinging tentacles and passes it to its mouth. The name Cnidaria comes from the Latin cnidae which means ‘nettle’. All of the animals within this group have stinging cells which they use for the capture of prey and to protect themselves against predators.
Did you know that they are able to move by sliding the base along the substratum? They have even been shown to slowly move away from predators such as sea-slugs when facing attack. They are also aggressive to neighbouring Beadlet Anemones. When the tentacles of two adjacent anemones come into contact, one will sting the other, leading to the other individual being forced to move away!
Amazingly, this is the only species of anemone to brood their young (viviparous reproduction). The anemone begins as a planktonic larval stage where it crawls out of its parent and is free in the ocean for a short period of time. After that, it enters the cavity of another sea anemone and further develops. Once the juvenile anemone is ready to be "born", the "parent" anemone catapults the new individual through the water where it lands and secures itself on solid substrate!
You can find these amazing creatures in rockpools near you. When exposed at low tide, they appear as bright red blobs of jelly, but when feeding up to 192 beautiful stinging tentacles emerge, arranged in 6 circles around the mouth. Although it uses poison to sting their prey, its toxin is not dangerous to people.
After learning more about these 'Red Blobs' I think this gallery will give a sense of thier beauty.
Introduction kindly produced by Dave Wall
Citizen Science Officer
National Biodiversity Data Centre
Explore Your Shore!
Ireland has over 3,000 km of coastline and in excess of 1,000 coastal marine species, and yet the conservation status of many of these species is unknown. For years, we have largely ignored our intertidal habitats, despite our shorelines being some of the richest habitats we have in terms of biodiversity. In 2018, less than 4% of the 100,000 records submitted to the National Biodiversity Data Centre were of coastal marine species. Explore Your Shore! is looking to change this and we are working hard to engage the public in Marine Biodiversity Citizen Science recording and to promote new and existing Irish Marine Biodiversity Citizen Science initiatives.
Recording our marine biodiversity is just as vital as recording terrestrial plants and animals. Our coastal species are indicators of the health of our seas and unfortunately, due to the lack of baseline data, we struggle to realise the extent of biodiversity loss in our marine ecosystems due to human actions. Explore Your Shore! has been funded by the Environmental Protection Agency to promote Marine Biodiversity Citizen Science recording in Ireland, to gather a new baseline for Ireland’s intertidal species and to assess our coastal species as indicators of Climate Change and Water Quality.
By taking part in our Rocky Shore Safari (or indeed any of the surveys run by Explore Your Shore! or our partner organisations) you can help contribute to our understanding of our coastal species and habitats, help monitor the impacts of Climate Change and Water Quality on our marine life, and empower the public, through Citizen Science, to contribute to Irish and EU monitoring of the health of our ocean. So why not join our growing movement of Irish Marine Citizen Scientists by discovering what you can do to help Explore Your Shore! today? Visit www.exploreyourshore.ie for more information or visit us on Facebook @ExploreYourShore.
Citizen Science while on the shore
After the last few blog posts, we though it was time to share something really important for science. As you are on the way into the rockpool it’s important to record what you see.
There are a number of #CitizenScience activities that you can join in and help researchers along the way, here is our favourite one!
EGG CASE HUNTS BY THE SHORE
During the seasons many rays and sharks will swim into the Bay to lay eggs. They find a suitable area and will anchor the egg cases until they hatch.
Once the juvenile ray or skate has hatched the tide, currents will 'pick' up the empty eggcase and it will end up on a local shore.
Once empty, the eggcases (or mermaid’s purses) often wash up on the beach. One of the best places to find them is among the strandline, where the seaweed washes up. The eggcases of different species vary. So, by looking at the size, shape and features, we can tell which species laid it.
Purse Search Ireland is an exciting fisheries conservation project that involves public participation, so that means you can take part! The project is basically a massive nationwide search for mermaids’ purses, the egg cases of sharks, skates, and rays. We’re hunting for these egg cases because they can provide valuable information on the location of nursery areas for Ireland’s egg laying sharks, skates and rays.
Information on nursery areas is crucial for effective conservation management and protection of vulnerable species. It’s also important for the sustainable development of our fisheries.
Learn more about Marine Dimensions
Mermaids Purses - Infovideo
Check out our Gallery of egg cases!
EXPLORE YOUR SHORE
The Aquarium will organise a number of these workshops during the summer time, so check out our social media and website for new information.
Once you have completed your egg hunt and are hungry for more Citizen Science, have a look at these opportunities...they get a little more advanced but there are lots of simple ones to complete too.
They include many, many citizen science opportunities, like:
Join us for the next blog as we look a little deeper into the species and stories of life in the rockpools.
PREPERATION ‘for the pools’
If you have followed this blog, you may be wondering what are the next steps?
How do I start? Where to go? How to keep safe? How to take a photo?
The reason we choose to make this blog all about Grattan is really because we know it so well. We would recommend you search for local tips on the best rockpools close to where you live.
Starting a hobby of rock pooling is really inexpensive, as you start with the basics and then start to invest more in your hobby.
Let’s look at rockpool safety tips
A common sense approach and personal responsibility by the rock pool will always serve you well, enjoy but always be SAFE by the Sea. Make sure you have food and water and are well enough to navigate uneven surfaces.
How to read a tide table.
In general, it takes around 6 hours for a tide to fully recede and hit the lowest point, then another 6 hours for it to come back into the highest point.
Things to keep in mind when you read a tide table
Tides change daily, so make sure that you’re using an up-to-date tide table. Tides can also differ greatly among sites that are very near one another, so ensure that your tide table is as area specific as possible.
Finally, tide predictions are just that… predictions! Aside from the moon, sun, and gravity, other factors affect tides, such as local weather and wind patterns. Be aware that the tides on the beach may not follow the tide table perfectly, and always exercise caution in or by the water.
I found this tiny crab amongst the Acorn barnacles. (hand held microscope)
In deciding what to bring along, lets just start with the basics.
If it is your first time in the rockpool, all we suggest is you just experience it! No need for any items, except for the wellies and phone for photography. On your first visit, there is always a change you will see something, but as it takes a little experience to find ‘see’ species do not give up hope.
When we talk about ‘see’ species, we mean it takes a while for our eyes to adjust to the rockpool experience. Don’t forget we spend a lot of time in urban cityscapes, so it is only natural for our eyes to adjust to nature.
As you get more experienced, we suggest you purchase some great field ID books.
Building Your Library
A BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO IRELAND'S SEASHORE
Helena Challinor, Sherkin Island Marine Station
Essential Guide to Rockpooling - Ebook
By Steve Trewhella, Julie Hatcher
Building Your Knowledge
There are some wonderful resources on the Rock pools here are some really good ones to watch for.
EXPLORE YOUR SHORE
One of the Golden Rules of Rock pooling is always committing to recording your species to the shore. Learn more on why this is so important!
The National Biodiversity Data Centre works to make biodiversity data and information more freely available in order to better understand and assist the protection of Ireland’s biodiversity.
Biodiversity data are a key requirement for understanding our natural surroundings, for tracking change in our environment and for gaining a greater insight on how we benefit from, and impact upon, the ecosystem goods and services provided by biological diversity; a national asset which contributes at least €2.6 billion to the Irish economy each year. The National Biodiversity Data Centre was established by the Heritage Council in 2007 and is funded by the Heritage Council and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. The Data Centre is operated under a service level agreement by Compass Informatics Limited, an information and location technologies company focused on applications in natural resources and planning.
RECORDING YOUR DISCOVERIES – Its really quick!
If you turn over a rock in the 'Rockpool' always return it to its original position (as best as you can).
KEEL WORMS CUT HANDS
When lifting rocks you need to be very wary of these, Keelworm tubes. They are common under stones and on hard surfaces on probably all our shores. Keelworms also encrust ship keels (thus their common name) and in fact, any hard surface that is immersed in the sea, including shells and bodies of hard animals. If you have ever cut your hand, you know these are very sharp.
Interesting story, Old sailors were punished with 'Keel hauling'. where they would be dragged under the hull of the ship, where they would experience terrible lacerations.
Take Lots of Photos - Less 'interaction' with hands.
The National Biodiversity Data Centre have put together some amazin resources to enable you to get the most from your experience, have a look at these excellent resources.
Dave Wall of the national Biodiversity data centre has put together these info videos, see;
Big Beach Biodiversity – record your shots
Big Beach Biodiversity
So, you have made it this far and should have enough information to conduct your own rock pool. If you would like to join a group, the Aquarium will be hosting public events starting from Easter until the end of August. We would love to have you join us!
In the next blog we will have a closer look at some of the Citizen Science events you can join in.
Check out Grattan Beach!
WHAT OTHER ROCKPOOLS CAN WE VISIT?
if you are looking for a site to go Rockpooling check out the The Heritage Council and Explore Your Shore map of rockpooling sites around the Irish coast!
Click on poster to download poster!
In this blog I would like to explore the benefits of coastal communities covering sense of place, sights, sounds, smell wellbeing, resilience, and symbiosis by the rockpools.
Along the Wild Atlantic Way, you are treated to some wonderful views, experiences and opportunities to find your own sense of place. Before you decide to go visit these experiences, I thought it would be good idea to ‘prime’ you before you go.
Many people are attracted to the sea for a host of different reasons, let us explore sense of place.
Sense of place refers to the emotive bonds and attachments people develop or experience in particular locations and environments, at scales ranging from the home to the nation. Sense of place is also used to describe the distinctiveness or unique character of particular localities and regions.
The Rock Pools of Salthill is where I have discovered my own sense of place, it is my office where I work, it is where I can escape the urban madness and also where I have an opportunity to discover something that no person in the world has seen!
In this blog I would like to show how the Rockpools can show us the way to wellness.
Sounds, Song of the Sea
Here I am in the Rockpool, It’s a nice day, I can hear the bird and ocean song of the sea. As I walk I can hear the ‘splash splash’ a pleasant sound indeed. It is hard to describe, but I get a nice calming sense as I appreciate where I am.
There is growing evidence to prove the impact of the ocean on wellbeing, here is just a small example;
The power of the ocean to bring mental health benefits to humans is a growing field of research as scientists increasingly understand the value of the marine realm in human health and wellbeing.
Biologist Wallace J Nichols, the author of Blue Mind says "We are beginning to learn that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water and that being near it can calm and connect us, increase innovation and insight, and even heal what's broken."
Dr Easkey Britton, is a wonderful ocean champion who has done extensive research on ocean well being and I really like this quote
‘For example, consider the imprint water experiences can leave on our body-mind. We experience the world, and comprehend it, through our senses. The sea, especially, is such a multi-sensory experience. It’s visually stimulating with a thousand shades of constantly moving blue. Wave-exposed coastlines release negative ions believed to alter our biochemistry and light up our mood, relieving stress. Smells and sounds of waves all have an effect on our sense of wellbeing. And that’s before we dive into it. This is particularly important when we consider that we increasingly spend our time indoors.’
To learn more about Easkey, see; https://easkeybritton.com/
Smells like Sea
Saltwater by itself doesn’t have any smell, but the things that live in it certainly do. The rather stale, sulphury smell is dimethyl sulphide, produced by bacteria as they digest dead phytoplankton. At low tide, you’ll also smell chemicals called dictyopterenes, which are sex pheromones produced by seaweed eggs to attract the sperm. And on top of all this is the ‘iodine’ smell of the sea, which is actually the bromophenols produced by marine worms and algae.
(bromophenols that have been shown to possess a variety of biological activities, including antioxidant, antimicrobial, anticancer, anti-diabetic, and anti-thrombotic effects.)
In essence, plankton die, plankton get eaten by bacteria, the bacteria release sulfur into the atmosphere, the sulfur oxidizes and then starts forming very tiny clumps. These clumps then form water droplets and clouds. Essentially ocean smell not only smells good, but it also helps to form clouds.
So, next time you take a fresh breath by the sea, you need to thank the ‘TINY’ plankton for that!
Resilience and AdaptionsEaskey Britton, PhD Easkey Britton, Ph
Here is an example of the sights you can see and opportunities for wellness, resilience, so I think this example is quite cool.
The small air bubbles allow this seaweed to rise once again, as the tide comes in. It has survived for a time with very little support, yet it is still rising with the new day and tide.
Resilience has been used to describe people and systems that bounce back from negative experiences and disturbances. I think this shows that no matter how low we get, it is never permanent! It will pass. Seaweed is the best example of resilience on the shore.
Symbiosis is a term describing any relationship or interaction between two dissimilar organisms. The specific kind of symbiosis depends on whether either or both organisms benefit from the relationship.
I think we can all agree that we benefit from the ocean, food, fresh air, healthy climate…I would say we need to create a better symbiosis with the ocean though…..
There exists many symbiotic relationships within Rock Pools. Symbiotic relationships come under three categories: mutualism, commensalism and parasitism.
Mutualism is a type of symbiosis that occurs when two organisms are in a relationship where they both benefit. For example, honey bees and flowers. The honey bees pollinate the flowers, forming seeds, and the bees collect pollen, which provides them with the nutrients they need.
Commensalism is where one organism benefits and the other remains in a neutral status. An example would be a spider building a web on a tree. The spider benefits as it is building its shelter and nest, but the tree has no benefit nor harm done to it.
Parasitism is where one species benefits and the other is harmed. An example is mistletoe and trees; the mistletoe (which is a parasite) grows on the tree which steals its nutrients and resources, benefiting the mistletoe and disadvantaging the tree.
In Rock Pools, examples of symbiosis include:
-an alpheid shrimp & a goby: the shrimp digs a burrow while the goby protects and occasionally provides food for the shrimp. (mutualism)
-anemone crab and sea anemone: the anemone provides protection and shelter for the crab while it gains nothing in return, however, isn't harmed. (commensalism)
A group of Hermit Crabs is known as a consortium.
-sand crab and parasitic barnacle: the barnacle infects the sand crab, and hormones secreted by the barnacle cause male crabs to become females and unable to reproduce.
In exploring the benefits of the ocean, we briefly touched upon some topics that need to be experienced for yourself. So….in the next blog we will explore preparation and what you need when going rockpooling.
Thanks for reading, Sea you soon.
The journey along the Wild Atlantic Way covers 2,500km of spectacular coastline with white sands and glittering waves. It also includes over 180 Wild Atlantic Way Discovery Points where the views are both strategic & stunning.
These discovery points are to let you know you are in a very special area, and they give you some hints to local landmarks and other sights to see.
Not many people know it, but some of these discovery points can be close to some wonderful rock pool experiences, only discovered when you talk to the locals, ask for Local Experts will guide you to the best ones.
As we are so close to the rock pools of Grattan beach, we would like to celebrate the wonder of these pools and share some of the magic & mystery that lies beneath them, we call it 'What really lies under the Wild Atlantic Way- Rockpools of Grattan Beach, Salthill'.
Where are these famous rockpools? Well, they are dotted all over the Wild Atlantic Way, it’s just some are easier to reach than others. Have a chat with the locals and they will know of a 'good rockpool' and tell you what you can find.
Drone shot of Grattan beach, Salthill. (Tide is quite high, so no Rockpool to explore...yet)....
Aha, this is much better. The tide has receded and the many rockpools are revealed. As you can see rock pools are formed when the tide goes out, and there is an area of rocks and seaweed where animals take shelter.
However, before we go into the rockpools, let’s do a health & safety check in!
For Health & Safety tips when rock pooling;
· Wear shoes with a good grip, for example wellies or old trainers. Be aware of slippery seaweed, sharp rocks, and barnacles.
· Be aware of the tide, you can get cut off from the shore quickly. Check the tide times, find daily tide times for your location from websites.
· Go rock pooling in a group and look out for each other.
· Be careful of wildlife in the sea and in rock pools. Animals may sting, bite or pinch, if you are unsure do not touch.
· Wear suitable clothes for weather. Remember the weather changes quickly so you might need waterproofs and sun cream on hand.
· In an emergency call 999 and ask for the coastguard.
Here we are our first rockpool, as you can see the 'rockpools' are not signposted per se. All you need to do is walk carefully amongst the rocks and seaweed. Please be careful as these can be quite slippy.
As we are rock pooling and many of the Animals like to hide, we may have to lift some rocks! When lifting a rock, we need to be careful, as there could be acorn barnacles and keel worms which can cut your hand quite easily.
Typically, it takes some practice to 'see' the animals, as they are well camouflaged, after many years in the pools we still miss out some species too!
WE ALWAYS REPLACE A TURNED ROCK!! If you lift a rock, you must restore it as best as you can. Remember, this is an animal’s habitat, so please remember that!
You may have some idea there are fish and crustaceans to be found, but don't forget the flora too. There are some amazing seaweeds under the rocks, and these are very interesting too.
We always recommend you purchase this wonderful book A Beginner's Guide to Ireland's Seashore Our Aquarists swear by it, and it fits easily into your pocket with simple guides and ID Keys.
So, are you ready to explore?
Download our quick guide below to study some of the most popular and rare species that can be found in the rock pools. If you are exploring the ‘pools’ we would like you to record these species for citizen science. If you are taking photos, always in landscape mode, try to get the whole species and take some side shots too!
You can record your discovery here; https://records.biodiversityireland.ie/start-recording Just remember you may discover something that has never been seen before! This is why the rock pools are amazing, you might discover small fish that have floated all the way from the Sargasso Sea, a cuttlefish bone, new species crustaceans, tide seeds……the list is endless.
Check out some of the most common species on the shore, download the PDF and see what we found.