Starfish, usually Asterias rubens, sometimes get washed ashore in huge numbers on Rhossili beach in Gower, South Wales. Then they disappear again, either washed back out to sea or buried in the sand. Birds peck at them but they do not seem to like to eat them very much. This April, for the first time, I saw ghostly star shapes in the dry sand high on the shore. The long buried stranded starfish were reappearing in skeletal form. You may not have realised that Asteroidean Echinoderms like the Common Starfish had a skeleton. Hidden beneath their often brightly coloured and bumpy skins, bound together by connective tissue, is a lattice network of small calcareous ossicles in the shape of rods, crosses or plates. Spines and tubercles are also part of the skeleton, sometimes separate pieces resting on the deeper dermal ossicles or as extensions of them that project to the outer surface (Barnes 1963).
In these photographs of the dessicated remnants of starfish it is possible to see many small holes in the sand around them. These holes are the places where the scavenging sand hoppers are hiding from the dry hot air and waiting from the tide to return in the cool of the day to recommence cleaning up all the vegetable and animal debris that ends up on the strand-line – like dead starfish.
Barnes, R. D. (1963) Invertebrate Zoology, R. B. Saunders Company, 526-539.
A watery theme in textiles this time. These images show details of the designs on the hems on two Chinese silk embroidered dragon festive robes, worn by an Imperial consort and an Imperial prince during the Qing dynasty (1856-1908). They are displayed in a glass case at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England. The hems of the garments depict waves and surf while dragons fly overhead on the main body of the robe. If you look closely at the detail of the churning water, you may see small stalk-eyed crabs, sea snails with coiled shells, leaping blue fish, and strange sea anemones lurking in the foam.
Yesterday on Knoll Beach at Studland Bay in Dorset, the two most common things washed ashore were great clumps of Japweed (Sargassum muticum) and large barrel-mouthed or dustbin-lid jellyfish (Rhizostoma octopus). There were at least a dozen jellyfish on the stretch of sand that I walked. They varied in size from about 20 – 60 cm diameter across the dome. The colours varied from crystal clear to pink and blue. They all seemed very fresh and I think maybe some of them were still alive or just expiring. As they washed to and fro in the waves, sometimes entangled in the Japweed, they turned this way and that, upright then upside down, inside and out. This species is becoming an increasing feature on south-west coasts over the last couple of summers. I first encountered these seashore creature on the Gower Peninsula in South Wales where they have long been a frequent find on the beaches. Click here to learn more about the Rhizostoma octopus jellyfish on Jessica’s Nature Blog.
Porth Kidney Sands in Cornwall is well known for its beautiful golden beach but it also has some very interesting rocks. The natural textures, colours, and patterns of cliff strata on the west side are quite different from those previous photographed in a rock outcrop at Porthmeor near St Ives. At Porth Kidney there are two types of rock, both dating from the Devonian Period about 359 to 385 million years ago, Many parts of the bedrock show layers that have been folded in complex ways by pressures and forces in ancient times and some of these strata have been metamorphosed by heat from a major igneous lava intrusion at a later date – but still retain evidence of their sedimentary origin in the layering effects.
Slates and siltstones of the Mylor Slate Formation are found in one area and are followed further west by Hornfelsed Slate and Hornfelsed Siltone (the metamorphosed version of the rocks) nearer to Carbis Bay. There are even some spectacularly bright blue-green patches between the layers which are likely to be some derivative of copper; and an iron-bearing stream that cascades down the cliff has converted the adjacent rocks to a striking orange colour that clashes with the green algae adjacent. The upper reaches of the shore are covered with irregular beach stones and also large boulders.
The last couple of months have seen the wheat growing at a tremendous rate. From late April to early June the growing crop has shot up from a few inches to a couple of feet. The stalks are standing tall and the ears of wheat are developing well. The standing crop looks especially attractive when the sun shines through the leaves, and the wind sends waves across the field.