Friday a week ago I helped out colleagues to collect speciments for the rock pool exhibits of the annual Science in the Square event here in Falmouth. Leaving the house at 05:45 was ‘not ideal’ but seeing Gylly beach lie serenely in the early morning sun this was immediately forgotten. Low tide was not very low at all, and so it was a bit of a struggle to find animals. In the end a variety of crabs, fish and other critters could be collected. I managed to catch a Compass jellyfish and haul it from one end of the beach to the other in a full bucket of water thinking this would be a unique addition, only to find out that five others were already caught. The one really cool find was a little shark stuck in a rock pool. It was a Nursehound Scyliorhinus stellaris, also known as the Large-spotted dogfish, Greater spotted dogfish or Bull huss (distinguishable by the frilly nasal flaps from the smaller species the Small-spotted catshark Scyliorhinus canicula). (Its eggs can be frequently found here, see for instance these older posts.) It was quite dark and hissed a little bit. Way too big to bring back and so it was happily set free.
I helped out last Friday at the University of Exeter – Cornwall Campus event ‘Science In The Square’ (see for a short description my work blog ‘coastal pathogens‘). Briefly, the aim was to set up several small plastic trays and tanks with interesting local rock pool creatures and explain some fun facts to the general public (specifically kids). For instance, in one exhibit showing amongst others coralline algae, star ascidians and barnacles you had to guess which organisms were plant and which were animal (glossing over the fact that algae are not technically plants but OK). In another display (‘who’s the daddy’) we explained that it is the males in worm pipefish that are pregnant, not the females. In another display we explained that tunicates have larvae with a tail and spinal chord and that they are evolutionary more closely related to us than are for instance crabs, snails or starfish, something that is not very obvious when looking at the adults:
The star ascidian Botryllus schlosseri. (For some pictures of the related colonial ascidian Botrylloides leachi, see a previous post.) We had a couple of small tanks filled with a variety of animals and seaweeds:
A Giant goby Gobius cobitis, first time I saw one, almost 20 centimeters, quite impressive!