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Overview of Marine Life

The Lyme Bay reefs and the associated fauna are considered to be nationally important conservation features. The reefs and adjacent areas are traditional fishing grounds for local fishing communities for which fishing is both culturally and economically important. The Lyme Bay reefs are designated as a candidate Special Area of Conservation (cSAC) and a large proportion are subject to a mobile fishing gear ban under a Statutory Instrument. Below is a small selection of some of the marine life found in Lyme Bay. You can also discover more on the Commercial Species, Flora & Fauna and Marine Mammals pages.

Squat Lobster
'Galathea strigosa', emerging from a crevice at night.
Tompot Blenny
'Parablennius gattorugine', peering from a rock crevice. Tompots are very inquisitive fish. They are common in shallow rocky seabeds around Britain and Northwest Europe. They are strongly territorial and will often emerge to 'chase off' their own reflection in the camera glass or perspex port.
Tube Worm
'Bispira volutacornis', also known as the twin fan worm. This worm lives in rock crevices with the double fan of feeding tentacles protruding. It is found on rocky reefs throughout the northeast Atlantic.
Cuttlefish Eggs
Common or European cuttlefish eggs growing attached to seagrass, Zostera marina, blades. Cuttlefish arrive in shallow bays and estuaries in spring to lay their eggs in seagrass beds.
Lightbulb Tunicates
'Clavelina lepadiformis', growing attached to the underside of a rocky ledge.
'Asterias rubens', hydroids, bryozoans and soft corals (Alcyonium digitatum) on a cobble reef, Lyme Bay, southwest England.
Red Bandfish
Close up of a Red bandfish, 'Cepola macrophthalma', (also known as Cepola rubescens) showing the large eyes and .needle-like teeth.
Pink Sea Fans
A cluster of pink seafans 'Eunicella verrucosa' on the East Tennants Reef, Lyme Bay, Southwest England, UK. Pink seafans are gorgonions, also known as horny corals due to the horn-like composition of their skeleton. They are the only species of gorgonion found in English waters. Around Britain they are confined to the southwest, occurring as far north as north-west Ireland. Colonies may grow to over half a metre high and up to almost a metre across. Larger colonies are likley to be several decades old. Pink seafans are protected under the terms of the Wildlife and Countryside Act in the UK. Within Lyme may they are found on areas of stable boulder and bedrock, mostly deeper that 20 metres. The East Tennnants Reef supports some of the largest colonies and densest aggregations of pink seafans known to occur in UK waters.
Sunset Corals
'Leptopsammia pruvoti', growing on the Saw-tooth Ledges Reef, Lyme Bay, Southwest England. This solitary coral is rare in British waters, confined to a few southern and western locations. It occurs in shaded locations on steep or overhanging rock. The Saw-tooth Ledges supports one of the best populations in UK waters.
A female common or European cuttlefish, 'Sepia officinalis', about to lay eggs. A male that has recently mated with her protects her from other potential suitors.
Ross Coral
'Pentapora fascialis' (formerly known as Pentapora foliacea) growing on a cobble reef, Lyme Bay, Devon Dorset border, Southwest England. Ross coral is not actually a coral but a bryozoan, a group of small colonial marine animals that often grow in a similar fashion to corals, forming similarly shaped colonies. Ross coral is very delicate and vulnerable to damage, particularly from mobile bottom-fishing gear such as trawls and dredges.
Cliona Celata Sponge
A large Cliona celata sponge growing on a silty limestone reef, Lyme Bay. Cliona celata occurs in two forms. It excavates channels in limestone (probably by chemical action) and may appear as small rounded pappillae protruding through the rock surface. It may also occur in raphyrus form, a large prominent colony, as in this image. The large form of Cliona celata is one of the most distinctive sponges found in UK waters. It is found in a wide range of conditions, exposed open coast to sheltered, silty areas. It is sometimes known as the sulphur boring sponge or yellow boring sponge.
Limestone Boulder
A sediment covered limestone boulder reef in Lyme Bay, Southwest England. The bright yellow tassled sponge Iophon hyndmani or Iophonopsis nigricans (the two species cannot be positively differentiated underwater) can be seen in the foreground; also the large white sea squirt Phallusia mammillata in the centre. Both are characteristic species of Lyme Bay reefs. Dogfish (a.k.a. catshark) egg cases can be seen wrapped around the Phallusia squirt. The tentacles of a Thyone roskovita sea cucumber (holothurian) can be seen protruding from under the boulders. This species is typically found living amongst boulders.
Rich Turf Forms
A rich epifaunal turf forms on the tide-swept edge of a rocky reef, Saw-tooth ledges Reef, Lyme bay, Southwest England. The Saw-tooth ledges is a very distinctive reef area in Lyme Bay. It is a series of limestone steps, some only a few centimetres high, some several metres (hence the name 'saw-tooth'). Close to the edges of the reef, where tides are strongest, rich assemblages of filter-feeding species form. these include Eunicella verrucosa, Alcyonium digitatum, Pentapora fascialis, Axinella dissimilis and many other branching sponges.
Edible Crab
An edible crab, 'Cancer pagurus', digs in to algae covered sediment to create a depression in which to hide, creating plumes of suspended sediment in the process. Edible crabs are prodigious excavators of sandy or muddy seabeds. One can often observe large shallow 'craters' created by edible crabs.
A scallop, 'Pecten maximus', takes flight from a perceived threat. Scallops swim by vigorously clapping the two halves (valves) of their shell and thus rapidly ejecting water from their mantle cavity in two jets either side of the shell hinge. They do this briefly, moving only short distances. Scallops are common on the megarippled gravel (gravel waves) that cover much of Lyme Bay.
Sediment Covered Limestone Boulder
A sediment covered limestone boulder reef in Lyme Bay, Southwest England showing the profusion of sediment tolerant species that grow on such reefs. The rock reefs of Lyme bay are mostly low lying and frequently covered with a thin veneer of fine sand. This creates a particular habitat; species such as the large solitary tunicate (sea squirt) Phallusia mammillata occur in high densities here, along with other sediment tolerant species such as the hydroid Halecium halecinum and the soft, grey-blue colonial tunicate Diplosoma spongiforme.