seal

Both grey seals, Halichoerus grypus, and harbour seals, Phoca vitulina, live along our coast. It is estimated that 20-25 harbour seals live between Chichester Harbour and Southampton Water. They head out to sea to hunt for food and return to the shore to rest and to breed. Grey seals have a roman nose, while harbour seals have a face which resembles a Labrador dog.

Seal Harbour
© Hugh Clark
Seal Harbour
© Chas Spradbery

native oyster

Ostrea edulis
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.

native oyster
Donna Tomlinson
native oyster
Paul Naylor
native oyster
Paul Naylor

seagrass

Seagrasses (sometimes called eelgrasses) are types of flowering plants which grow in shallow seawater. They provide a nursery area for young fish and a habitat for lots of other animals, including seahorses. They are an important food source for dark-bellied brent geese.

seagrass at low tide
HIWWT
submerged seagrass
Polly Whyte

Small spotted catshark

Scyliorhinus canicula
This is small type of shark, which is common in our seas and frequently seen by divers at Mixon Hole. These sharks lay eggs, nick named ‘mermaid’s purses’. The empty egg cases are often found washed up on our beaches.


small spotted catshark
Paul Naylor

Mixon Hole

Mixon Hole is an unusual underwater feature . Thousands of years ago, it used to be a river gorge on land, but now it is 5-20m under the sea. The soft rock forming the wall of the ‘drowned gorge’, supports a variety of marine life, including seaweeds, sponges, worms and piddocks (a type of burrowing clam).

cuttlefish

Cuttlefish are relatives of octopus and squid. There are two species found off our coast: the common cuttlefish and the little cuttlefish. Cuttlefish are masters of camouflage, with their ability to almost instantly change their appearance to match their surroundings. Cuttlefish have one bone in their body which provides them with buoyancy. Cuttlefish bones are regularly washed up on our beaches.


common cuttlefish
Paul Naylor
cuttlefish 'bone'
Dave Kilbey
cuttlefish
Mark Doggett
cuttlefish eggs
Polly Whyte

Common lobster

Homarus gammarus
Common lobsters live in holes and excavated tunnels in rocky areas. They have one claw specialised for cutting and the other for crushing. Common lobster are a commercially important species. They are slow growing, but can reach a size of one metre in length.


common lobster
Matt Doggett
common lobster
Justin Evans

seal

Both grey seals, Halichoerus grypus, and harbour seals, Phoca vitulina, live along our coast. It is estimated that 20-25 harbour seals live between Chichester Harbour and Southampton Water. They head out to sea to hunt for food and return to the shore to rest and to breed. Grey seals have a roman nose, while harbour seals have a face which resembles a Labrador dog.

harbour seal
© Hugh Clark
Harbour seal
© Chas Spradbery

cuttlefish

Cuttlefish are relatives of octopus and squid. There are two species found off our coast: the common cuttlefish and the little cuttlefish. Cuttlefish are masters of camouflage, with their ability to almost instantly change their appearance to match their surroundings. Cuttlefish have one bone in their body which provides them with buoyancy. Cuttlefish bones are regularly washed up on our beaches.


common cuttlefish
Paul Naylor
cuttlefish
Mark Doggett
cuttlefish eggs
Polly Whyte

common lobster

Homarus gammarus
Common lobsters live in holes and excavated tunnels in rocky areas. They have one claw specialised for cutting and the other for crushing. Common lobster are a commercially important species. They are slow growing, but can reach a size of one metre in length.


Common lobster
Matt Doggett
Common lobster
Justin Evans

black bream

Spondyliosoma cantharus
Black bream arrive at our coast when the water temperatures increase in the spring. They are an important food fish. The males excavate a nest by using their tails to move sand or gravel off a firmer layer of substrate on which the females lay the eggs. Black bream are hermaphrodites, changing sex from female to male when they reach a certain size.

black bream nest
© HIWWT

chalk reef

Chalk is a soft rock, which provides a home for burrowing animals, like piddocks (a type of clam) and worms, as well as sponges and seaweeds which grow on top of the rock. Chalk was formed millions of years ago from the skeletons of microscopic plants.

chalk reef
Mike Markey
chalk reef
Mike Markey
chalk reef
Justin Evans
chalk reef
Justin Evans

bass

Dicentrarchus labrax

The sea bass found off our coast migrate between the English Channel and the North Sea as temperatures fluctuate throughout the year. They feed on small fish, prawns, crabs and cuttlefish. Bass are caught by both commercial and recreational fishermen.

herring gull

Larus argentatus

You can’t miss these large noisy birds which live all along our coastline. You can distinguish them from other types of gull by their pink legs and black wing tips with white spots. They are opportunistic feeders, eating all sorts of food. They will even steal food from other seabirds.

herring gull
Alan Price
herring gull
Dave Kilbey
herring gull chicks
Dave Kilbey

blue mussel beds

Mytilus edulis 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 mussels
Paul Naylor

Dover sole

Microstomus pacificus

Dover sole are a type of flat fish, which like sandy and muddy seabeds. When they hatch they have an upright body position, like most other fish and as they develop they turn on their side and the eye on their underside moves to sit next to the eye on their top side. Sole are a popular food fish.


dover sole
Paul Naylor

skates and rays

Skates and rays are flat cartilaginous (their skeletons are made of cartilage rather than bone) fish, which are related to sharks. They are long lived (common Skate can live to be over 100 years old) and they glide over the seabed hunting for food. Ray egg cases can be found washed up on our beaches.

undulate ray / Mike Markey
undulate ray / Mike Markey
undulate ray / Jenny Mallinson
undulate ray / Jenny Mallinson
undulate ray / Matt Doggett
undulate ray / Matt Doggett
spotted ray / Jenny Mallinson
spotted ray / Jenny Mallinson

skates and rays

Skates and rays are flat cartilaginous (their skeletons are made of cartilage rather than bone) fish, which are related to sharks. They are long lived (common Skate can live to be over 100 years old) and they glide over the seabed hunting for food. Ray egg cases can be found washed up on our beaches.

undulate ray / Mike Markey
undulate ray / Mike Markey
undulate ray / Jenny Mallinson
undulate ray / Jenny Mallinson
undulate ray / Matt Doggett
undulate ray / Matt Doggett
spotted ray / Jenny Mallinson
spotted ray / Jenny Mallinson

seahorses

Both the UK’s species of seahorse, the short-snouted and the long-snouted, live off our coast, most often recorded in seagrass meadows and estuaries. 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.

long snouted seahorse / Paul Naylor
long snouted seahorse / Paul Naylor
long snouted seahorse / John Newman The-Seahorse-Trust
long snouted seahorse / John Newman The Seahorse Trust
long snouted seahorse / Julie Hatcher
long snouted seahorse / Julie Hatcher

dolphins

We have a variety of different dolphin’s that visit our local waters including the common dolphin (Delphinus delphis), the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) and Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus). They use echolocation to search for prey, which is similar to sonar. They emit clicking sounds and listen for the return echoes to locate the whereabouts of potential prey.


bottlenose / Olle Akesson
bottlenose / Olle Akesson
short beaked common dolphin / Caroline Weir
short beaked common dolphin / Caroline Weir

Great scallop

Pecten maximus

Scallops live on sandy and gravelly seabeds, and move about by snapping their shells shut sending a jet of water out. They are a popular seafood. Scallops have 30-40 simple eyes.

Great scallop / Paul Naylor
Great scallop / Paul Naylor
Great scallop / Polly Whyte
great scallop / Polly Whyte
Great scallop / Torridon
Great scallop / Torridon

ross worm reef

Sabellaria spinulosa

This type of worm builds itself a tube to live in out of sand and shell fragments. The worm tubes can create reefs which stabilise the seabed, providing opportunity for other marine life to settle there.

crabs

There are about 65 species of crab in British waters. Some species are important for fisheries, including the edible crab, velvet swimming crab and spiny spider crab. For camouflage, crabs often decorate themselves with other marine life, such as seaweed and sponges.

velvet-swimming crab / Matt Doggett
velvet-swimming crab / Matt Doggett
spider crab / Polly Whyte
spider crab / Polly Whyte
edible crab / Polly Whyte
edible crab / Polly Whyte
hermit crab / Matt Doggett
hermit crab / Matt Doggett

harbour porpoise

Phocoena phocoena

The harbour porpoise can be seen off the coast of Eastbourne, however, it is a secretive animal that doesn’t often break the surface. If you are lucky enough to see one, you may hear a loud noise as they clear their blowhole. These are social creatures, which travel around in groups of around 12 individuals searching for fish to eat.

harbour porpoise / Caroline Weir
Caroline Weir

minke whale

Balaenoptera acutorostrata


These whales are occasionally spotted off our coast. Minke whales sieve food out of the sea using the baleen hairs in their mouth. They have a small sickle-shaped fin on their back and a white band on their flippers.

minke whale / Caroline Weir
Caroline Weir