26 February 2011

A Day at the coast

Last Saturday we went down the coast to Stevenston. The idea was to collect shells, as this is the nearest point on the Clyde where one can find a reasonably wide selection of marine species. Further up the coast, the salinity is lower and the species found are more estuarine.

I was particularly looking for Limaria hians shells, having found broken ones there before. After recent storms, I hoped that there would be plenty of shells washed up. I failed to find any Limaria, and the first section of the beach was covered in seaweed, but beyond the seaweed, on the sand, I found a good collection of small shells among the fragments of coal that get washed up here.

In the picture above, the shells are as follows:
Top row: Gari fervensis (Faroe sunset shell), Eptonium turtonis (Wentletrap), Epitonium clathrus (Wentletrap), Aporrhais pespelecani (Pelican's foot shell).
Middle row: Donax vittatus (Banded wedge shell), Acteon tornatalis, a turrid still to be identified, Polinices polianus (Alder's necklace shell).
Bottom row: Donax vittatus (Banded wedge shell), Angulus tenuis (This Tellin), probably Aequipecten opercularis (Queen scallop)(x2)

The larger picture of the 2 Epitonium shells shows the difference between the 2 species. E. turtonis on the left has flatter ribs which are not aligned between whorls, while E. clathrus on the right has ribs which are aligned through the height of the shell.

Apart from shells, we also found several dead brittle stars among the debris on the beach. This one is upside down, showing its mouthparts.

We also found this strange fish...

13 February 2011

A visit to the coast

Although we live quite close to the sea, it is estuary and sea lochs rather than open sea, so the salinity tends to be low, and pollution on the high side. There is nothing like the range of shells which can be found where there is open sea, though there are a few that particularly like the more brackish and sheltered location. I don't expect to find any really unusual species on these sheltered beaches.

Yesterday we made rather a late start, and the main object of our outing was to drive over the Ministry of Defence road above Glen Fruin and on to Coulport on Loch Long where we stopped to stretch our legs on the beach.

Unusually, the beach was covered in shells, mostly Horse Mussels (Modiolus modiolus) and Cockles. I wondered if it would be worth looking for Hungarian Caps (or Bonnet limpets - Capulus ungaricus) - one of the few British shell species I have never managed to find, apart from a very badly damaged specimen from further down the Clyde.

Only about 5 minutes after I had described this shell to Fred, I could hardly believe my eyes when I found a perfect one.

This shell measures 40mm across. Its name comes from the shape of the shell, and it lives on the shells of Horse mussels and scallops.

I also found several fresh pairs of Variegated scallop (Chlamys varia) which are not common along this coast, and some Jingle shells.

Chlamys varia

Jingle Shell (above)

Unusual cone found washed up on the beach

This cone has three spiral rows of seeds which run its entire length.