All washed up

, 29 November 2020
All washed up
Conger eel © Andy Cooper

By Sarah Ward

Living Seas Officer

As the winter weather arrives, we often get stormy and turbulent seas, resulting in all sorts of things washed up on our beaches.

Seaweed, crabs and shells are fairly commonplace on our beaches, even in the calmer summer months, but over the winter when the weather is wilder, many creatures get dislodged and caught up in waves and currents. Whilst it can be sad to see dead animals on the shore, it can provide interesting insight into creatures which live in our seas that you might not otherwise get to see.

Goose barnacles often arrive on our shores after storms. They are oceanic animals that attach themselves to floating objects in the sea; unlike the somewhat more familiar acorn barnacle, which we find on rocks and hard surfaces at the coast, these barnacles spend their lives at sea.

Over the last few years, we seem to be seeing an increasing number of Portuguese Man O’ War washed up on our beaches. Usually more common at the western end of the Channel, this species have been spotted washed up on various Sussex beaches this year. Although related to jellyfish, they are actually a colonial animal called a siphonophore. These creatures are beautifully coloured but are dangerous – do not attempt to handle them as they have a nasty sting which can be fatal in rare cases.

An interesting find was spotted recently on Rustington beach – a washed up conger eel! Conger eels are present in the area – it was quite well known that there were a large number of them living under the West Pier in Brighton – but they are nocturnal and quite elusive so not often seen.

Have you seen anything interesting washed up at the coast recently? Don’t forget you can share your finds or get help with ID by posting on our social media or getting in touch with our WildCall Officer.

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