Journey from an Exmoor Stream to the Atlantic Ocean - COAST


The COAST of North Devon is dramatic and varied. From exposed rocky coast & sandy bays to sheltered coves and vast estuarine inlets. They are influenced by the gulf stream which provides warmer seawater temperatures throughout the year and are subject to the second largest tidal range in the world (>10m). This results in in the existence of a diverse range of habitats suitable for a myriad of marine species.

From the harbour pier along the rocky coast, colourful corkwing wrasse (Crenilabrus melops)(<15cm) and ballan wrasse (Labrus bergylta)(<60cm) can be found exploring the weed enveloped rocks and boulders for small crabs and other crustaceans.

Rock cook wrasse (Centrolabrus exoletus)(<15cm) have been known to follow these larger wrasse and provide them with a personal cleaning service-picking at their skin parasites!

Within these rocks and crevices, normally below the tide, a tompot blenny (Parablennius gattorugine)(<30cm) may appear displaying it's almost clown-like appearance. It's distinct 'eyebrow' antennae is used for detecting food.

This habitat also suits one of our more unusual marine species- the lesser octopus (Eledone cirrhosa)(<50cm) with it's excellent vision and powerful parrot like beak this animal is perfectly adapted and as a result is a highly successful predator.

Within the weed in more sheltered spots and occasionally in rockpools, a close relative of the seahorse exists. They are known as pipefish. There are a number of species all perfectly camouflaged within the seaweed and always on the look-out for a plankton shrimp meal.

Down on the sand can be found the dragonet (Callionymus lyra)(<30cm). These curious fishes skim the sand surface looking for shrimps and worms. The males of which develop exotic colours when breeding.

Also here can be found the illusive common cuttlefish (Sepia officianalis)(<30cm). These squid-like creatures are normally associated with the white bone that washes up on the beaches of Britain. The living creature, just like it's close relative the octopus, is ideally suited to living on the sand. It can change it's colour instantly to suit it's surroundings. It also has, in it's armoury, an extendible pair of suckered tentacles that it uses to seize it's shrimp or crab prey.

Above all this continuous activity on the seabed 'bait fish' consisting of sandeels and sandsmelt (Atherina presbyter)(<20cm) shoal above. These fast swimming, shoaling fishes, tend to live just under the surface. They are constantly on the move to avoid capture from not only predatory fishes such as pollock and sea bass but also from diving birds-gannets, cormorants and guillemots.