With the school holidays stretching out ahead of us and the arrival of summer in the northern hemisphere, many of us will be heading to the coast with friends and family to soak up some sun or play in the sand and surf. The beach is a great place to search for signs of wildlife, and with this in mind we’ve created ARKive’s beach treasure hunt, a bingo style game to keep the kids (and the competitive adults among us) entertained!
How many of the following will you be able to find on your next visit to the beach?
Our favourite coastal crustaceans, crabs can be found around the globe, from the common shore crab on the beaches of the UK to the huge coconut crab found on tropical Indo-Pacific islands, thought to be the largest terrestrial arthropod in the world.
Wobbly they may be, but fish they are not! Jellyfish actually belong to the phylum cnidaria, along with anemones and corals. They can be found in every ocean of the world and are a fairly common sight washed up on beaches. If you do find one, approach with caution, some can give you a nasty sting even when out of the water.
One of our favourite things to find on the beach is sharks’ teeth. Sharks continually shed and replace their worn-out teeth, with the lost teeth often fossilising on the seabed and eventually washing ashore. Some are very valuable if you are lucky enough to find them, like the teeth of the extinct giant shark megalodon.
Sea urchins are peculiar looking animals that typically live on the seabed or burrow in to the sand. Many have spectacular looking spines for protection, giving rise to the name ‘urchin’, an old term for their spiky lookalike – the hedgehog.
Starfish or sea star
Another misnomer here, as starfish are not related to fish but belong instead to a group of animals known as echinoderms, leading marine scientists to use the name ‘sea star’ instead. Sea stars are a fascinating group, most famous for their ability to regenerate limbs. It is estimated that there are around 2,000 species found around the globe.
Shells of all shapes and sizes can be found on beaches around the world, and the most commonly found are the hard, protective casings of marine molluscs, particularly bivalves such as mussels and oysters, and gastropods like periwinkles, limpets or the even spectacular queen conch.
Driftwood is a common sight on beaches, particularly after a storm. The term driftwood refers to all types of wood washed ashore including both trees and branches washed out to sea naturally or lost during logging, and man made wooden objects such as lost cargo or parts of shipwrecks.
Many marine species lay their eggs at sea, and it is not uncommon to find eggs washed onto beach from time to time. Some species attach egg clusters to things like kelp (such as the common whelk eggs pictured), while others including sharks and skates lay eggs in distinctive protein cases sometimes known as mermaid’s purses.
Seaweed is the name given to a vast array of marine algae, and the different species typically belong to three main groups; brown, green and red algae. Some species have distinctive ‘floats’ or ‘air bladders’ filled with gas to help keep them upright underwater.
Cuttlefish are molluscs, and as such they are related to bivalves and gastropods, the species who produce many of the sea shells we see washed ashore. The shell of the cuttlefish however, is internal, and often referred to as the cuttlebone. It is chambered and filled with gas to help the cuttlefish regulate its buoyancy.
Good luck with your own search – make sure you let us know how you get on! You could even share photographs of your finds on the ARKive Facebook page.
Claire Lewis, ARKive Researcher