Life in the open sea

South Downs, Managing our downland landscape South Downs Managing our downland landscape
A stormy sea

The ocean is a place of mystery and wonder, underneath the seemingly lifeless waters nature finds a home.

Dark clouds and sun shine on the sea
Dark clouds and sun shine on the sea
Dark clouds and sun shine on the sea

The sea, beautiful and daunting is the largest habitat on the planet. Amongst the busy shipping lanes of the English Channel it might look empty with just the odd sea bird. But the shallow seas of the Beachy Head Marine Conservation Zone offer a haven for life. From the humble oyster to the fascinating and strange sea horse, life thrives here. 

Oyster shells on the beach
Oyster shells on the beach
Oyster shells on the beach

All can seem calm and tranquil on a sunny day but wild storms stir the sea up. Sometimes these bring with them goose barnacles from their tropical homes on flotsam washed up on the beach.

The Weever fish is an aggressive predator feasting on other small fish and crustaceans. Its tactic is to bury itself under the sand awaiting their prey.  This brings them into contact with beach visitors because if trod on, they will inject a poison causing a sting.

Other signs of marine life can be found on the beach amongst the strand line. Look out for mermaids’ purses, really the empty egg cases of rays and skates, related to the sharks.

Mermaids purses on the beach
Mermaids purses on the beach
Mermaids purses on the beach

Occasionally marine mammals will be seen, pods of bottle nosed dolphins and Harbour porpoise most likely. Sometimes a curious common seal will feed over the wave cut platform at high tide. Rarely a bull grey seal will haul themselves up on the beach and attract attention from visitors.

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