How to identify rockpool wildlife

12 species for you to look for on your next rockpooling adventure. The pools richest in wildlife tend to be nearest the low-tide mark.

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All illustrations by Dan Cole/The Art Agency      

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1

Long-spined sea scorpion Taurulus bubalis  (above)

Body length: up to 18cm. ‘Bug’ eyes, a large, toad-like head and spiny gill covers. Often hides among seaweed.

2

Shanny Lipophrys pholis

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Also called common blenny. Body length: up to 16cm. Blunt head and a long dorsal fin. Hides in crevices.

3

Common prawn Palaemon serratus

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Body length: up to 11cm. Transparent body with fine brown markings. Darts into crevices and seaweed.

4

Shore crab Carcinus maenas

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Shell diameter: up to 8cm. The shell has five ‘teeth’ on each side below the eye. Colour variable, but mostly green.

5

Common hermit crab Pagurus bernhardus

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Body length: up to 3cm. Lives inside empty spiral shells, from winkles to whelks; the crab itself is red-orange.

6

Common starfish Asterias rubens

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Legspan: up to 30cm, but rockpool specimens are usually smaller. Five limbs are orange with paler stipples.

7

Beadlet anemone Actinia equina

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Tentacle length: up to 7cm. Red, brown or green. Tentacles retract into body when exposed at low tide.

8

Snakelocks anemone Anemone viridis

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Tentacle length: up to 18cm. Long green tentacles that seldom retract. In lower pools that never dry out.

9

Common limpet Patella vulgata

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Shell diameter: up to 6cm. Attaches firmly to rocks, creating ‘home scars’. Leaves at high tide to graze algae.

10

Dog whelk Nucella lapillus

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Shell height: up to 4cm. Has a thick rim to the shell mouth. Carnivorous, boring into mussels and barnacles.

11

Grey top shell Gibbula cineraria

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Shell height: up to 1.5cm. Greyish, conical shell with fine reddish or purple markings. In lower pools.

12

Common mussel Mytilus edulis

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Shell length: up to 10cm. Flattened, oval, bluish-black shell. Lives in tightly clustered colonies on rocks.