Last week I was on holiday in Bretagne (Brittany), France. There was not a lot of opportunity for snorkelling or rock pooling activities, but the last day I checked out the pontoons of the large marina in Trinité-sur-Mer. I was not disappointed; the pontoons in Cornwall are full of life, but these ones 200 or so kilometers further south were exceptionally diverse. The most striking find was that of orange, red and purple Rosy feather stars Antedon bifida. These also occur in the UK but I had not seen these yet here so I was quite excited. I did not go into the water myself and the photos I took holding my camera under ended up being not great so I took some shots from above water as well, too bad I did not have more time!The first photo below gives a good impression of how abundant and diverse life attached to these pontoons is. Many species are the same as the ones I see in Mylor marina, including invasive species such as the Bryozoan Bugula neritina and the tunicate Styela clavata. In addition to the many sponges, anemones, mussels, oysters and colonial tunicates I even saw things such as scallops (not sure which species) and urchins (Psammechinus). The peacock worms were absolutely huge. The plumose anemones Metridium senile looked different to the ones I am used to here to with orange individuals having brown collars which sometimes were really big and wavy. It seems no one that moors their boat in a marina ever takes notice of what is attached to the pontoons, but they should, as the diversity and beauty can almost rival coral reefs. I hope I can go back one time to properly investigate but for now I will check out the local marina’s and keep an eye out for feather stars…
In addition to animals, loads of different seaweed species could be found washed up on the beach in Pleneuf-Val-Andre:
Some of the species would look great in the aquarium I am sure. For instance Fine-veined crinkle weed Cryptopleura ramosa:Pestle weed Gigartina pistillata: (EDIT 2017: does not look like this species at all, be very suspiscious of my seaweed ID skills in older posts please!)Maybe a Plocamium species, I am not sure. I really like my Seasearch Guide to Seaweeds of Britain and Ireland, but it does not contain a key and I find it hard to determine some species based on a photograph.What would be great is to have a seaweed key app. I saw a great one this weekend for trees: leaf snap: take a picture of a leaf with your phone or tablet and it automatically gives you a list of best hits based on the outline (and perhaps colour, I don’t know), it worked really well. Seaweeds (actually pretty much all organisms) are too complex in shape, size and color for this. However, I could see an app working where the first screen would give you a number of pictograms, eg ‘dark encrusting reds’, ‘chalky reds’, ‘feathery reds’, ‘fan-shaped reds’ etc. After touching a first pictogram, new ones would appear, for instance to select the branching pattern, ‘irregular’, ‘whorled’, ‘opposite’ or ‘alternate’ and so on. Instead of such a purely dichotomous approach, it could also be possible to be presented with a wide variety of pictograms describing different properties (eg, colour, overall shape, texture, location on the shore), where it is possible to skip properties you are unsure about and still go ahead with the next steps. This would be a brilliant resource and help me identifying weeds such as this one:Anyway, a final seaweed (there were many, many more but this one I immediately recognized): Sugar Kelp Saccharina latissima. It is surrounded by various species of flat and tubular Sea Lettuce Ulva:
The second good rock pooling session in Bretagne was in the little port of Pleneuf-Val-Andre. The rock pools themselves were very similar to those in Erquy. The only interesting find there was a pretty gastropod I had not seen before (a white snail with a dark brown/black shell about 1,5 cm in length).
It looks like a Trophon muricatus, although I am not 100% sure Raphitoma purpurea:
Cuttlebones were scattered everywhere along the shore and we even found a clump of Common cuttlefish Sepia officinalis eggs:
The eggs were quite big and had a weird texture. I don’t know if these egg clumps can survive hours on the beach at low tide, probably not. It would have been cool to take them to an aquarium to see if they would hatch. It is extremely difficult to keep cuttlefish though, they need live food and large aquariums which usually are still too small still to prevent ‘butt burn’ when they jet backwards into the tank wall and their cuttlebone gets exposed right through the mantle. In the next post I will get to the washed up seaweeds.
Last week we crossed the channel to attend a friend’s wedding in Bretagne (Brittany). This of course also called for some rock pooling action, first at the village of Erquy. It was interesting to compare the shores of Bretagne to Cornwall (or at least Falmouth and this small stretch of coast in northern Bretagne). Immediately noticeable was the large amount of oysters on the rocks (with some locals busy collecting them, quelle surprise); these are pretty much absent in Falmouth:
Similar to the Cornish coast, wireweed Sargassum muticum was abundant. This Pacific invader surely must have a large effect on the native flora and fauna:
Invertebrate diversity was strikingly low compared to my local rock pools. For example, the only fish to be found were Shannies (and not a lot of them), there were no Cushion stars and no large crustaceans except for the shore crab. However, we did find a Common spider crab Maja squinado:
As there was not that much to see, I turned my attention to some of the less spectacular life forms, such as Pink paint weeds, red algae forming a calcified crust. The particular species pictured below forms a patchwork of individuals, crinkling up at the edges where they meet. This could be Litophyllum incrustans, but species are hard to identify by non-specialists such as myself. The little spots on the surface are the openings of reproductive structures called conceptacles.