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.


Cerastoderma edule

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

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 octopus

Octopus vulgaris

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

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 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


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

Dog whelk

Nucella lapillus

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

Edible periwinkle

Littorina littorea

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

European cowrie

Trivia monacha

Distinctive shaped shell, with striped ridges. It is tiny, but as colourful 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

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

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

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.

Lesser octopus

Eledone cirrhosa

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

Little cuttle

Sepiola atlantica

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


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

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

Razor shell

Ensis ensis

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

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 slug

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

Slipper limpet

Crepidula fornicata

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

Striped sea snail

Liparis liparis

Small, slimy fish with small eyes, a smooth head and a tapered body - surprisingly cute!
Picture of Striped sea snail

Search by…