UK Seas

Discover the wonderful sea creatures that inhabit the UK seas and shores

Know the name of the creature you are looking for?


UK seas is a guide to the fauna and flora found around UK coasts. While the majority of species are marine, some species are included that are regularly encountered on land by the coast, so you’ll find descriptions of non-marine species such as reptiles, amphibians, insects and plants as well.


Acorn barnacle

Semibalanus balanoides

Small, tough animals, usually seen closed up inside the plates of its shell-like "house", but appearing feathery when feeding in seawater.
Picture of Acorn barnacle

Angel shark

Squatina squatina

An unusual-looking shark, with a flattened body and thick tail that was once sold as "monkfish".
Picture of Angel shark

Angular roughshark

Oxynotus centrina

The angular roughshark is aptly named for its pointed head and fins, and the rough teeth-like scales which cover its body. It has a broad, flattened head, a short, blunt nose and two tall dorsal fins, which look a little like sails. The angular roughshark eats worms, crustaceans and molluscs, which it feeds on by using a suction technique.
Picture of Angular roughshark

Arctic tern

Sterna paradisaea

Graceful, swallow-like seabird, with a bright red bill and black cap. It dives rapidly from the air to pluck small fish from near the surface.
Picture of Arctic tern

Atlantic halibut

Hippoglossus hippoglossus

A flat fish, usually a dappled pale colour, with both eyes on the right side of its head.
Picture of Atlantic halibut

Atlantic triggerfish

Balistes capriscus

A tropical-looking fish with scrawly grey markings, a beak-like mouth, and a dorsal fin that can be triggered into defensive action, giving its name.
Picture of Atlantic triggerfish

Ballan wrasse

Labrus bergylta

A large, chunky fish with a big mouth, flattened sides to the body, in a variety of spots and colours. Can be very inquisitve, and investigate snorkellers from a respectful distance.
Picture of Ballan wrasse

Barrel jellyfish

Rhizostoma octopus

A surprisingly substantial jelly, robust and spherical, with no tentacles but eight thick frilled arms. It is bulky and white with pretty purplish fringe.
Picture of Barrel jellyfish

Basking shark

Cetorhinus maximus

A gentle giant, that basks at the sea's surface while it feeds on plankton.
Picture of Basking shark

Bass

Dicentrarchus labrax

Long and agile hunters of small fish that prowl amongst the shallows.
Picture of Bass

Beadlet anemone

Actinia equina

The familiar red, sometimes green, "blob" found on the shore which opens to a tentacled flower rimmed in blue in moving water.
Picture of Beadlet anemone

Bib (or Pouting)

Trisopterus luscus

Cod Like, but with a subtle banding down the body.
Picture of Bib (or Pouting)

Bladder wrack

Fucus vesiculosus

A conspicuous olive green to brown weed, found on the middle of the shore as the tide goes out.
Picture of Bladder wrack

Bloody Henry

Henricia oculata and H. sanguinolenta

A vivid pink-purple colouration with bright orange tips to the arms.
Picture of Bloody Henry

Blue jellyfish

Cyanea lamarckii

Purplish blue lines radiate visibly through the bell-shaped body. Similar in shape to lion's mane, but much smaller, and with a relatively mild sting - though this can still be painful.
Picture of Blue jellyfish

Blue shark

Prionace glauca

Beautifully proportioned, shiny silver-blue shark with a pointed snout.
Picture of Blue shark

Bottlenose dolphin

Tursiops truncatus

A lively dolphin, with a distinctive "beak" and silvery-grey colour. Often seen in family groups.
Picture of Bottlenose dolphin

Brent goose

Branta bernicla

A dark, mostly grey/brown goose with a distinctive white neck patch. Calls with a pleasant chattering sound.
Picture of Brent goose

Buoy barnacle

Dosima fascicularis

A floating barnacle, with legs that stick out from an almost-transparent body case, and a stalk attached to its own float.
Picture of Buoy barnacle

Butchers broom

Ruscus aculeatus

An evergreen shrub, with stiff, dark green spiked shoots and leaves. It has glossy red berries in summer and autumn.
Picture of Butchers broom

Butterfish

Pholis gunnellus

Eel-like, yellow-brown with black spots on its back. It has a doleful facial expression.
Picture of Butterfish

By the wind sailor

Velella velella

A bright blue float with thread-like tentacles belonging to a colony of jellyfish-like animals.
Picture of By the wind sailor

Carrageen

Chondrus crispus

Dark red, almost purple, with short fronds that quickly dry with an encrusting of salt when out of water. Plants growing high up the shore can be a pale green colour, like the one in the photograph.
Picture of Carrageen

Cirl bunting

Emberiza cirlus

This quiet bird resembles a yellowhammer - males are most conspicuous in the breeding season with chestnut wings and black-striped cheeks.
Picture of Cirl bunting

Cockle

Cerastoderma edule

The common cockle is compact and slow growing, but found in huge numbers in their favoured habitats.
Picture of Cockle

Cod

Gadus morhua

The cod is a handsome, predatory fish that is speckled brown along its golden back, with one barbel on its chin.
Picture of Cod

Coley (or saithe)

Pollachius virens

Brownish, cod-like fish. A single pale line which runs straight along the side of its body is distinctive.
Picture of Coley (or saithe)

Common blenny or shanny

Lipophrys pholis

A perky fish, mostly green or brown, with variable patches of other colours. Able to change its colour to coordinate with its surroundings. It has eyes near top of its head.
Picture of Common blenny or shanny

Common brittlestar

Ophiothrix fragilis

Brittlestars have five very thin arms, which break easily if handled. At each arm joint there are also small spines, giving it a decidedly spiky look.
Picture of Common brittlestar

Common dolphin

Delphinus delphis

Distinctive hourglass pattern of cream, with light and dark grey. Medium-sized dolphin, and really acrobatic - it will often "bow-ride" in front of a moving boat.
Picture of Common dolphin

Common hermit crab

Pagurus bernhardus

The most obvious feature is the home a hermit crab lives in: usually a snail shell. Its body is soft and shaped to fit inside spiral-shaped shells.
Picture of Common hermit crab

Common limpet

Patella vulgata

A ribbed, cone-shaped shell stuck to rocks and boulders is usually all you will see; the animal inside is a snail-like mollusc with a powerful "foot" to keep it clamped to the rock.
Picture of Common limpet

Common lizard

Zootoca vivipara

A small, busy lizard, brown with narrow stripes, usually well camouflaged in sandy and leafy backgrounds.
Picture of Common lizard

Common lobster

Homarus gammarus

Beautiful blue (never pink!), with long red antennae and pale yellow markings.
Picture of Common lobster

Common octopus

Octopus vulgaris

Usually brownish in colour, with two rows of suckers lining each of its eight "arms".

Common prawn

Palaemon serratus

It has an almost transparent body, with black stripes. Its legs are banded blue, yellow and black, colouring that is more visible on bigger specimens.
Picture of Common prawn

Common scoter

Melanitta nigra

A small, dark seaduck that bobs around in the sea, and is often found in large flocks. It eats molluscs.
Picture of Common scoter

Common seal

Phoca vitulina

The Common seal has finely spotted grey/brown fur, a rounded head with no visible ears, and 'V' shaped nostrils help tell it apart from the grey seal. It Seems clumsy on land, but graceful under water.
Picture of Common seal

Common shore crab

Carcinus maenas

The Common shore crab is predominantly green, but varies through yellow, brown and black.
Picture of Common shore crab

Common skate

Raja batis

A very big flat-fish, with a pointed snout, and brown body with pale spots.
Picture of Common skate

Common squid

Loligo vulgaris

The Common squid has a long pale body with a frilly fringe, large eye and long tentacles.
Picture of Common squid

Common starfish

Asterias rubens

The familiar five-armed shape, and usually orange colour are unmistakeable.
Picture of Common starfish

Common sunstar

Crossaster papposus

Striking orange or red, with pale stripes and a bulky appearance.
Picture of Common sunstar

Common whelk

Buccinum undatum

Very large shell, usually white. Its body is also pale, but flecked with dark colours. Also called "buckie".
Picture of Common whelk

Common whelk egg cases

Buccinum undatum

The puffy balls of white eggcases come from the common whelk which are laid on the seabed by these large sea snails.
Picture of Common whelk egg cases

Compass jellyfish

Chrysaora hysoscella

Colour variable, but usually has pale umbrella-shaped bell with brown V-shaped markings, a little like the divisions on a compass. Possibly the most typical-looking jellyfish, with round bell-shaped body and long tentacles. Also called "sea nettle", this jellyfish stings.
Picture of Compass jellyfish

Conger eel

Conger conger

A very large eel, slate grey with a menacing appearance, but usually harmless unless on an angler's hook.
Picture of Conger eel

Corkwing wrasse

Crenilabrus melops

This small wrasse has stripy cheeks, a dark smudge behind the eyes and a distinguishing spot on the tail. Wrasse are chequered brown but breeding males are flecked with electric blue and red spots.
Picture of Corkwing wrasse

Cormorant

Phalacrocorax carbo

Large, long necked - usually with a white throat and iridescent black plumage elsewhere. It appears black from a distance, with its snake-like neck and it is often seen amongst the waves, before diving to catch fish.
Picture of Cormorant

Crystal jelly

Aequorea forskalea

A shimmering disc of clear jelly, fringed with some short, hair-like fronds.
Picture of Crystal jelly

Cuckoo wrasse

Labrus mixtus

The male is a beautiful array of colours: blue, orange, yellow and black, one of the brightest fishes in UK seas. Females are a golden colour, with black markings.
Picture of Cuckoo wrasse

Curlew

Numenius arquata

Surprisingly large wader, with a long downturned bill, long legs and dappled brown body.
Picture of Curlew

Cushion star

Asterina gibbosa

Cushion stars are similar to other starfish but have shorter, stubbier arms.
Picture of Cushion star

Cuttlefish

Sepia officinalis

Large eye, striped body shaped by the central "bone" and ten tentacles (the two longest ones are usually hidden).
Picture of Cuttlefish

Cuttlefish bone

Sepia officinalis

This chalky white "bone" comes from an amazing squid-like mollusc which has large eyes, eight arms (plus two feeding tentacles) and a body that can change chameleon-like in colour and texture.
Picture of Cuttlefish bone

Dahlia anemone

Urticina felina

A stunning, substantial anemone with bulbed tentacles of concentric reds, whites and other colours - but it is usually hidden amongst sand and gravel when the tide is out.
Picture of Dahlia anemone

Dog whelk

Nucella lapillus

Plain white or grey, but often banded yellow or brown.
Picture of Dog whelk

Dulse

Palmaria palmata

A red seaweed, with flat, straight fronds that branch out 20-30cm or more. It is often found bunched together, as its spores ("seeds") do not travel far from the parent.
Picture of Dulse

Dunlin

Calidris alpine

Hunched shoulders and slightly down-curved bill, along with white tail patches, which help to identify it, but actually rather similar to a number of other small waders in winter.
Picture of Dunlin

Edible crab

Cancer pagurus

Pinky brown body with a pie-crust edge and chunky black claws. It is the familiar "brown crab" on the fishmongers slab.
Picture of Edible crab

Edible periwinkle

Littorina littorea

Tough, round shell usually dark brown, black or grey.
Picture of Edible periwinkle

Edible urchin

Echinus esculentus

A large sea urchin, usually orange-pink in colour and covered in pale prickles. It lives beneath the waves, grazing on rocks and seaweed, but its test (shell) is a familiar sight in trinket shops.
Picture of Edible urchin

Egg wrack

Ascophyllum nodosum

An olive brown necklace of egg-like beads. The "eggs" are capsules of air (to help the weed float towards sunlight when the tide is in) or filled with a gooey liquid containing reproductive spores.
Picture of Egg wrack

Eider

Somateria mollissima

The Eider is a large seaduck. The males are very dapper as if in bright evening wear, and the female is a little dowdy in mottled brown, more practical for camouflage when sitting on eggs. Sociable and quite noisy together.
Picture of Eider

European cowrie

Trivia monacha

Distinctive shaped shell, with striped ridges. It is tiny, but as colurful as its larger tropical relatives.
Picture of European cowrie

Fan shell

Atrina fragilis

An enormous shell, over a foot in length, which lives with the narrow end of its shell submerged in the seabed so that only the shell opening is visible.
Picture of Fan shell

Frilled Shark

Chlamydoselachus anguineus

Frilled sharks look really different to most of the sharks we’re familiar with, and their long, snake-like appearance is thought to have inspired tales of huge sea serpents. It has a large blunt head and a very large mouth armed with lots of rows of sharp teeth. The shark uses these teeth to catch fish, squid and smaller sharks. Behind the head are 6 pairs of "frilly" gill slits, with the first pair going all the way around the neck to meet underneath. These gill slits have the appearance of ruffles or frills around its neck, and give the animal its name.
Picture of Frilled Shark

Fulmar

Fulmarus glacialis

Stocky, gull-like, with grey wings and a white body. It has a distinctive bill, with large "nostrils". The Fulmar barely beats its wings as it flies low over the sea, picking floating food from the surface. It defends its nest by spitting a foul-smelling oil at any intruder!
Picture of Fulmar

Gannet

Morus bassanus

Magnificent, athletic seabirds, mostly white with pale orange head, steely blue bill and black wing tips. Young birds are mostly brown.
Picture of Gannet

Goose barnacle

Lepas anatifera

An unusual-looking animal, enclosed by bony plates which open up to allow it to sway its legs out to catch food! 
Picture of Goose barnacle

Gorse

Ulex europaeus

A resilient shrub that holds its yellow flowers for months on end, even through winter. Pretty, but very thorny, and can take over large areas if left unchecked.
Picture of Gorse

Great crested newt

Triturus cristatus

A breeding male is stunning, almost dragon-like, with a jagged crest and bright orange and black belly. Otherwise a dark brown yet still-impressive creature.
Picture of Great crested newt

Great scallop

Pecten maximus

An animal with two familiar-shaped hinged shells, with one shell much flatter than the other. Also called king scallop.
Picture of Great scallop

Great skua

Stercorarius skua

Bulky, brown pirate of northern seas, with a broad chest and powerful flight.
Picture of Great skua

Grey heron

Ardea cinerea

A tall, long-legged fish-eating bird, that stands motionless for long periods, before darting with its sharp bill for fish prey.
Picture of Grey heron

Grey mullet (thick lipped)

Chelon labrosus

A sleek, silvery fish with a torpedo shape. Fast swimming, but may shelter amongst pier leg.
Picture of Grey mullet (thick lipped)

Grey seal

Halichoerus grypus

Distinctly dog-like face, with a roman nose, visible ears and mottled grey in colour. It is bulkier than the common seal.
Picture of Grey seal

Grey topshell

Gibbula cinerarea

A thick-shelled snail, mostly mottled grey and brown, but often with a pearly looking surface towards the apex of the shell in older specimens.
Picture of Grey topshell

Guillemot

Uria aalge

Penguin-like. It has a very dark brown back and wings, with white underparts and a sharp bill.
Picture of Guillemot

Gulper shark

Centrophorus granulosus

A long slender, light greyish-brown dogfish with a long snout and large, green eyes. Both dorsal fins have long grooved spines. There are no obvious patterns or markings on adults, juveniles may be lighter and have dusky white tips on the dorsal and caudal (tail) fins.

Haddock

Melanogrammus aeglefinus

With three dorsal fins, haddock are typically cod-like. Their dark grey back fades to cream on the belly. There is a distinct black spot above and behind the pectoral fin known as the "thumb print".
Picture of Haddock

Harbour porpoise

Phocoena phocoena

Small but relatively common, regularly seen around the UK, often close inshore. Dark grey, almost black upper body, and pale below. It has a blunt head shape.
Picture of Harbour porpoise

Herring

Clupea harengus

Small fish with silver sides and belly. Upper sections can have a blue-green tinge. Dark head, gills and its scales are quite large and easily detached from the body.
Picture of Herring

Herring gull

Larus argentatus

A common coastal gull, with grey wings. It has a distinctive red spot on its yellow bill, and has pink legs.
Picture of Herring gull

Honeycomb worm

Sabellaria alveolata

Honeycomb-like homes made by these worms on the shore give it its name. The worms themselves are discreetly tucked away inside!
Picture of Honeycomb worm

Hornwrack

Flustra foliacea

Looks like a dried seaweed, but actually a colony of hundreds of tiny animals called bryozoans, or "moss animals".
Picture of Hornwrack

Humpback whale

Megaptera novaeangliae

Enormous size, knobbly head, ling fins, with a subtle but distinctive hump near the dorsal fin.
Picture of Humpback whale

Isle of Man cabbage

Coincya monensis subsp. monensis

A tall and narrow plant, with a yellow flower that looks rather like a wild mustard and other brassicas.
Picture of Isle of Man cabbage

Jewel anemone

Corynactis viridis

Pretty, vibrantly coloured, with translucent tentacles. Found in a range of greens, pinks, purples, yellows and browns.
Picture of Jewel anemone

John dory

Zeus faber

Face on, John dory looks like a narrow apparition. From the side, however, its craggy features, spiky fins and a big black spot on its side are unmistakable.
Picture of John dory

Kelp holdfasts

Laminaria species

Curious oddments that can look like skeletal sections, but each is simply the holdfast, or "roots" of large seaweeds known as kelp.
Picture of Kelp holdfasts

Keyhole limpet

Diodora graeca

The animal's shell is very limpet like, ridged and with a slotted hole at the apex of the shell.

King scallop

Pecten maximus

The king scallop has a large, fan-shaped pair of pale shells, rather like the familiar petroleum company's logo.
Picture of King scallop

Kingfisher

Alcedo atthis

A treat of a bird to see, in azure blue and flaming orange. Usually zips around quickly and low over water, but you may be lucky to see one perched on a branch or post.
Picture of Kingfisher

Laver

Porphyra umbilicalis

Rather flat and decidedly purplish in colour, this forms a slippery sheet on rocks when exposed to air by the tide. It doesn't look very appetising, and is perhaps best obtained from farmed sources.
Picture of Laver

Leatherback turtle

Dermochelys coriacea

Enormous, unmistakeable turtle, dark in colour, and described as resembling a floating leather sofa!
Picture of Leatherback turtle

Lesser octopus

Eledone cirrhosa

A marbled-orange colour, and just one row of suckers on each arm.
Picture of Lesser octopus

Lesser sea-spurrey

Spergularia marina

A low growing plant, with fleshy succulent leaves, which flowers all summer long, still going strong in september.

Lesser spotted dogfish (or Small-spotted catshark)

Scyliorhinus canicula

Sleek and slender with large, black eyes and many small spots. It eats worms and small fish.
Picture of Lesser spotted dogfish (or Small-spotted catshark)

Lichen

Lichina pygmaea

The sooty black appearance above the high tide mark can look a little like oil: in fact, it's a slow-growing lichen that does well in low-pollution areas.

Lions mane jellyfish

Cyanea capillata

Large, reddish brown, umbrella-shaped bell with a mass of long, thin hair-like tentacles. A striking animal, beautiful but dangerous, with a potentially severe sting.
Picture of Lions mane jellyfish

Little cuttle

Sepiola atlantica

A mini version of the cuttlefish. It grows no more than a few centrimetres long, and burys itself in sand.
Picture of Little cuttle

Little egret

Egretta garzetta

A white heron-like bird, with black bill and legs and yellow feet.
Picture of Little egret

Long-spined Sea scorpion

Taurulus bubalis

Tough customer with spines, and an amazing array of skin colour variations to suit its habitat.
Picture of Long-spined Sea scorpion

Lumpsucker

Cyclopterus lumpus

Male is striking blue and pink, plain brown females are much larger.
Picture of Lumpsucker

Mackerel

Scomber scombrus

Mackerel have streamlined bodies with two well separated dorsal fins, they are bright blue-green and they have stripy upper bodies.
Picture of Mackerel

Mako

Isurus oxyrinchus

A little like a "great white" in shape, with large eyes and prominent teeth. A predator of fish and other sharks, but an undeservedly fierce reputation.
Picture of Mako

Manx shearwater

Puffinus puffinus

A slender bird, dark black/brown above and pale below. May follow hunting dolphin pods, picking up fish flushed to the surface.
Picture of Manx shearwater

Mauve stinger

Pelagia noctiluca

A small, attractively marked jelly, but possesses a surprisingly powerful sting. Has a deep bell with pink or mauve warts.
Picture of Mauve stinger

Minke

Balaenoptera acutorostrata

The long back is often raised above the water's surface, while distinctive markings on the lower body are difficult to see.
Picture of Minke

Moon jellyfish

Aurelia aurita

Transparent, umbrella-shaped bell edged with short hair-like tentacles, and four rings towards centre. Mostly harmless, though may sting sensitive skin. Very common, can bloom in large numbers when our chilly seas begin to warm up, or cool down.
Picture of Moon jellyfish

Mussel

Mytilus edulis

Very familiar two-shelled mollusc, dark blue to black in colour. Often found attached to rocks on the shore, tending to grow bigger below the tideline.
Picture of Mussel

Native oyster

Ostrea edulis

Shells rather scaly in appearance, chalky in colour. The two "halves" of the shells are quite different in shape.
Picture of Native oyster

Natterjack toad

Epidalea calamita

A plain, greenish toad, except for a bright yellow stripe all the way down its back. Very cute - for a toad!
Picture of Natterjack toad

Northern bottlenose whale

Hyperoodon ampullatus

Prominent beak and high forehead, occasionally seen breaching (leaping) out of the water.
Picture of Northern bottlenose whale

Northern stone crab

Lithoides maia

A very big crab, with spidery legs that stretch to two feet across, and a prickly carapace (shell). Usually red in colour.

Nursehound

Scyliorhinus stellaris

The nursehound, also known as the large-spotted dogfish, greater spotted dogfish, or bull huss, is a species of catshark. It has a robust body with a broad, rounded head and two dorsal fins placed far back. It has small black dots covering its back and sides, interspersed with brown spots of varying shapes. The underside is plain white.
Picture of Nursehound

Orca

Orcinus orca

Mostly black, with white markings when seen from surface - mostly white below. Adult male has a very tall dorsal fin.
Picture of Orca

Osprey

Pandion haliaetus

A fish-catching bird of prey, with long-wings, appearing white from below but with much black and brown patterning when seen up close.
Picture of Osprey

Oyster plant

Mertensia maritima

An attractive plant, with fleshy, succulent leaves and bell-shaped flowers that are usually purple or blue.

Oystercatcher

Haematopus ostralegus

Unmistakable, almost as recognisable as a puffin or magpie, with a bright red sausage of a bill, and black and white plumage.
Picture of Oystercatcher

Pacific oyster

Crassostrea gigas

A familiar oyster, with two knobbly grey shells.
Picture of Pacific oyster

Painted topshell

Calliostoma zizyphinum

A tall shell with stripes of purple and white, in a striking conical shape.
Picture of Painted topshell

Pilot whale

Globicephala melas

The long-finned pilot whale is dark in colour, long bodied but with a blunt, bulbous head shape.
Picture of Pilot whale

Pink sea fan

Eunicella verrucosa

Pink sea fans are formed from a colony of tiny anemone-like polyps and may be deep pink to white in colour.
Picture of Pink sea fan

Plumose anemone

Metridium senile

Ivory-white, tall anemone with feathery tentacles when underwater - but a contracted, floppy blob if exposed by the tide.
Picture of Plumose anemone

Porbeagle

Lamna nasus

Rather a great-white lookalike! A patch of white beneath its large dorsal fin helps with identification.
Picture of Porbeagle

Puffin

Fratercula arctica

So amusing and entertaining, a small bird with a large, brightly coloured bill and squat black and white body.
Picture of Puffin

Purple sandpiper

Calidris maritima

A rather drab, and decidedly purplish, small bird. This is the small, shy wader you are more likely to find behind you at the base of rocky cliffs, rather than amongst all the other waders at the shoreline of a sandy beach.
Picture of Purple sandpiper

Razor shell

Ensis ensis

Lives buried in sand. Its two long shells look like a cutthroat razor, and they an be quite sharp.
Picture of Razor shell

Razorbill

Alca torda

Rather penguin-like, strikingly monochrome, and with a distinctive dagger-like beak.
Picture of Razorbill

Red rags

Dilsea Carnosa

Similar to dulse, but with more numerous, smaller spoon-shaped fronds that can look torn and ragged.
Picture of Red rags

Redshank

Tringa totanus

Well named, as the red legs are clear from a distance, even if knee deep in mud!
Picture of Redshank

Ringed plover

Charadrius hiaticula

A lovely small wading bird, with a striking black and white head. It has brown wings, and a white body.
Picture of Ringed plover

Rissos dolphin

Grampus griseus

This is a big, rather slow-swimming dolphin. The adults are usually heavily scarred. They have a pale body, and a rounded head.
Picture of Rissos dolphin

Rosy starfish

Stichastrella rosea

A starfish with five tapering arms, and a pink-orange colour. Its skin is covered in smooth bumps.
Picture of Rosy starfish

Sand lizard

Lacerta agilis

Boldly patterned with spots, usually brown and cream. Males are often bright green in early summer.
Picture of Sand lizard

Sand mason

Lanice conchilega

Thin, pale tentacles which can be see when this worm is feeding, but you will see just its narrow, fragile-looking tubes sticking out of the sand at low tide.
Picture of Sand mason

Sanderling

Calidris alba

Grey above, pale below - can be tricky to separate from other small waders, but a black mark on its "shoulder" helps identify it. It patters quickly along the sand and it has a short beak for catching tiny prey.
Picture of Sanderling

Sea beech

Delesseria sanguinea

A red seaweed with flattened fronds that usually grows on rocky seabeds, but is also very commonly attached to other, larger seaweeds such as kelp.
Picture of Sea beech

Sea grapes

Just occasionally jet-black, rubbery grapes, in bunches, may be encountered amongst the tideline. The cuttlefish is again involved: these are their eggs, laid amongst seagrasses and seaweeds but dislodged by storms or predators. They can sometimes be found stuck to washed-up weeds.
Picture of Sea grapes

Sea lemon

Archidoris pseudoargus

A large seaslug, usually yellow or orange, covered in small warty bumps. Lays a bright ribbon of eggs in the spring.
Picture of Sea lemon

Sea lettuce

Ulva lactuca

Has a cheery bright green, leaf-like form that looks a little like it could grow into a cos lettuce!
Picture of Sea lettuce

Sea mouse

Aphrodite aculeata

A strange looking animal that has a felt-like skin on its back, and brushy bristles on its side.
Picture of Sea mouse

Sea potato

Echinocardium cordatum

A type of sea urchin, with a fragile test (shell) normally buried beneath the sandy or muddy seabed.
Picture of Sea potato

Sea slug

Although they sound unprepossessing, most are bright, exquisitely beautiful, and quite unlike their garden relatives.
Picture of Sea slug

Sea trout

Salmo trutta morpha trutta

A striking trout, with a strong thick tail, and black or brown spots along its shiny flanks.

Seashore springtail

Anurida maritime

Tiny, but bright blue so easily spotted.
Picture of Seashore springtail

Shelduck

Tadorna tadorna

A large and handsome duck, mostly white with bright red nobbed bill. It has a green head and a chestnut breastband.
Picture of Shelduck

Shore clingfish also called Cornish sucker

Lepadogaster lepadogaster

Appealing fish, with two beautiful blue spots behind each eye.
Picture of Shore clingfish also called Cornish sucker

Shore lark

Eremophila alpestris

A rare visitor from Scandinavia that forages amongst sand and shingle. Sparrow sized, with a black and yellow face.

Short-spined sea scorpion

Myoxocephalus scorpius

A dweller of rockpools with large eyes, spiny gill covers, and dappled, camouflaged colours which it can change chameleon-like. Resembles a mini "angler fish".
Picture of Short-spined sea scorpion

Slipper limpet

Crepidula fornicata

Smooth, oval shaped shell, with a distinctive "shelf" halfway across the opening.
Picture of Slipper limpet

Smooth snake

Coronella austriaca

A slender, mottled grey/brown snake. The top of the head is darker than the rest of the body.
Picture of Smooth snake

Snakelocks anemone

Anemonia viridis

A mass of bright green tentacles with purple tips, which are permanently exposed.
Picture of Snakelocks anemone

Snow bunting

Plectrophenax nivalis

A really beautiful little bird, mostly white but with some splashes of chestnut and black. It tends to stand out against dark cliffs and foliage.

Sperm whale

Physeter catodon

A huge head with toothed mouth often agape, and crinkly skin.
Picture of Sperm whale

Spiny dogfish

Squalus acanthias

The spiny dogfish gets its name from the two large ungrooved spines on each dorsal fin, which have venom glands at their base and are used primarily for defence.  Female spiny dogfish mature at 12 years old, while males mature at 6 years old. Gestation is thought to be between 18 and 22 months, one of the longest recorded pregnancies for any vertebrate. Spiny dogfish give birth to a litter of live 'pups' numbering between 1 and 20, and measuring between 18 and 30cm.
Picture of Spiny dogfish

Spiny seahorse

A cute, unmistakable fish. Yellow to green in colour, with prominent soft spines.
Picture of Spiny seahorse

Spiny spider crab

Maia squinado

A knobbly, large but slender crab with long jointed legs. It is often covered with sponges and seaweed and so is difficult to spot.
Picture of Spiny spider crab

Spiny squat lobster

Galathea strigosa

Looking a little like a mini-lobster or crab, with red and blue stripes, and long, narrow claws.
Picture of Spiny squat lobster

Spiny starfish

Marthasterias glacialis

One of the biggest of our starfish, it is ivory-white with large blunt spines.
Picture of Spiny starfish

Storm petrel

Hydrobates pelagicus

Small bird, hardly bigger than a sparrow, almost black in colour, with a prominent white rump. It looks rather like a house martin in both colouration and size.
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Strawberry anemone

Actinia fragacea

Very similar to the beadlet, with pale greenish spots, but often much larger.
Picture of Strawberry anemone

Striped sea snail

Liparis liparis

Small, slimy fish with small eyes, a smooth head and a tapered body - surprisingly cute!
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Thresher shark

Alopias vulpinus

An unremarkable looking shark - except for its enormously extended top part of the tail!
Picture of Thresher shark

Tompot blenny

Parablennius gattorugine

Appealing fish, with definite "eyebrows" above each eye and an endearing facial expression.
Picture of Tompot blenny

Toothed wrack

Fucus serratus

An olive-brown seaweed with flattened fronds, that have serrated edges all over.
Picture of Toothed wrack

Tope shark

Galeorhinus galeus

A steel grey shark with pointed nose and a large dorsal fin, which feeds on fish and crustaceans near the seabed.
Picture of Tope shark

Turnstone

Arenaria interpres

Stocky, shortlegged character that turns over seaweeds, other debris, and sometimes stones, looking for small crustacean and insect food. They need to turn a lot to get food through the winter!
Picture of Turnstone

Velvet swimming crab

Necora puber

A blue and black crab, with ultra-vivid red eyes and a serious attitutude that earns its nickname of "devil crab".
Picture of Velvet swimming crab

Viviparous blenny

Zoarces viviparous

Brown, sometimes yellowish, with variable darker patterns. Eel-like, also called eelpout.
Picture of Viviparous blenny

Wheatear

Oenanthe oenanthe

A pretty bird, blue-grey or brown above with black wings and cheeks, orangey breast, and a characteristic white rump and underbelly.
Picture of Wheatear

White beaked dolphin

Lagenorhynchus albirostris

A large, attractive character, may bow-ride with ships and lift entirely out of the water when swimming at speed. White-tipped beak, softly marked white and grey sides.
Picture of White beaked dolphin

White rock rose

Helianthemum apenninum

Delicate white-petalled flowers show at the top of slender stems. Rather fragile looking.
Picture of White rock rose

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