Chalk reef is a very important fragile and rare habitat, and Cuckmere Haven as part of the Beachy Head West MCZ is one of the best examples in Europe.
Chalk is a soft rock, which provides a home for burrowing animals, like piddocks (a type of clam) and worms, as well as Sea Squirts, Limpets, Mussels, Oysters, crabs, lobster, sponges and seaweeds which grow on top of the rock. Chalk was formed millions of years ago from the skeletons of microscopic plants.
Key species at Cuckmere Haven
Short-snouted Seahorses can grow to about 15 cm in length and are found living in shallow waters, often in Seagrass beds. Here, they use their flexible tails to anchor themselves to blades of Seagrass where they wait for prey to swim across their path. They swim slowly using their dorsal fin on their backs for propulsion and the small pectoral fins below their gill openings to steer.
Seahorses usually mate for life and perform a courtship dance with their partner every morning. The male seahorses get pregnant and give birth to the young, not the females.
The main threat to seahorses in the UK is habitat loss.
Blue Mussel beds
Blue Mussels can form extensive beds, clinging to each other and the seabed with threads called ‘beards’.
The firm bed that Blue Mussels create attracts a whole host of other marine life, such as anemones, starfish and crabs. Blue mussels are in important food source for wading birds, which over-winter at our shores. Blue Mussel beds are a threatened habitat, and those in southern England are some of the most threatened in Europe.
Oysters are a type of edible shellfish. All native oysters start out as males, and throughout their lives change back and forth from male to female. Native oysters can be found from the shore down to a depth of 80m on almost any type of seabed from bedrock to mud. They are a species which is in decline.