The world beneath the waves

There is a hidden world underneath the waves and we only get to see a glimpse of it...

Going rockpooling and exploring intertidal areas is a great way to start learning about the weird and wonderful marine wildlife we have in Yorkshire. 

The intertidal zone is the area where the sea meets the land between high and low tides. This means that animals here have adapted to be able to tolerate extreme conditions as they spend half of their time underwater and the other half exposed to the elements. Waves can hit with a lot of force so seaweeds must be able to protect themselves and have developed root systems called holdfasts to keep them attached to rocks. Sea snails like limpets are at risk of drying out and being washed away by waves. To deal with this, every limpet has a ‘home scar’; a spot on a rock where they always stay when the tide is out. The limpet creates this by grinding the rock with its shell to make an exact fit. This tight fit allows it to trap some water inside its shell to stop it drying out and they have a strong foot muscle that grips onto the rock. 

Keep your eyes peeled for angry crabs with bright red eyes (velvet swimming crabs) and slippery fish without any scales (butterfish, rocklings, shannies). You are guaranteed to see some barnacles which are related to crabs and actually glue their heads on to rocks whilst filter feeding using their feet! We commonly find hermit crabs along the Yorkshire coast so check every shell to see if they have made it their home. 

We encourage everyone to go rockpooling and to discover the array of animals and plants for yourselves, from scuttling crabs hiding underneath seaweed to bright red anemones paralysing passing prey. No single rock is ever the same and once you start looking, it’s difficult to stop! However, it’s important to be careful and to respect these habitats. You can do this by being gentle and avoiding poking and prodding animals, walking very carefully on slippery seaweed, putting rocks back exactly where you found them to avoid animals drying out and not putting more than one creature in a bucket at a time as this can stress them out and they often attack each other. 

There are plenty of fantastic rockpooling spots in Yorkshire including South Landing at Flamborough, Robin Hoods Bay and Runswick Bay. Why not give it a go yourself during this year’s National Marine Weeks (25th of July – 9TH of August) and let us know about the weird and wonderful marine wildlife you find!