A nice long snorkel in the Helford ‘River’ from Grebe Beach today. The weather was great and so was the water temperature. The timing was good too, close to low tide, so the Eelgrass beds started at only about one meter depth. There were a lot of cool new finds. What was most striking was the extremely large number of Sea hares Aplysia. There was almost one every other square meter, ranging from 5 to 30 cm, and from grey to light brown to very dark brown. The common species Aplysia punctata ususally reaches 7 cm (occasionally up to 20 cm), so the size and often reticulated veining probably make it A. depilans. From David Fenwicks aphotomarine site: “An easy way to distinguish this species from (a third species) Aplysia fasciata is to run a finger from front to back on the dorsal surface. If the finger cannot travel all along the animal from head to tail then it is A. depilans.” This I did not know so I need to go back and stroke some slugs! I see that these large (up to 40 cm!) beasts have been found here before. A not particularly large individual on my hand, as well as an orgy, with some orangy strings of eggs visible:
Another interesting mollusc to see was the predatory Necklace shell Euspira catena (not a very good shot, would be nice to go back diving soon so there is more time to take pictures). Other nice finds include a Mud sagartia Sagartia troglodytes anemone (I think!) and a small Sagartiogeton undatus anemone. Finally, at only 2 meters depth, we found a good-sized cuttlefish Sepia officinalis, lying still trusting its camouflage. In places, black Sepia eggs could be seen attached to the Eelgrass. Some of us also spotted a juvenile thornback ray in the shallows:
Another snorkeling post. Last weekend off Gylly Beach and without a wet suit (sea water temperature close to 20C now!). Plenty of fish about, with my first snorkel sightings of Sea bass Dicentrachus labrax and small groups of Red mullet Mullus surmeletus. Much to my surpise I also spotted a Cuttlefish Sepia officinalis half hiding between dead seaweed drifting in the shallows. It was not particularly scared and stayed put while I swam around it but after a while it let out a squirt of ink and moved on. Of course this was just when I did not bring my lumix camera, so the next day I went back and luckily it was in exactly the same spot:It did not end there. I next spotted a beautiful Blue jellyfish Cyanea lamarckii gently pulsating through the water column. Inbetween the tentacles three tiny fish were hiding, most probably juvenile Horse mackerel Trachurus trachurus:
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:
The number of Slipper limpet Crepidula fornicata (live and dead) was quite amazing, there were whole banks of them:
The little channel from the port to the sea, a mix of sand and rocks, was more interesting than the actual rock pools:
with a variety of organisms washing up, for instance this large (dead) Common spider crab Maja squinado (European shoe size 45 in the background…):
A Dog cockle Glycymeris glycymeris shell:
Egg cases (‘a sea wash ball’) of the edible Common whelk Buccinum undatum:
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.