Rockpooling under Worthing Pier  3

by Andy Horton 2000-1

Rockpooling under Worthing Pier
29 August 2000

The sea was flat as a pancake, and bright blue as the sky was clear and sun breached the fluffy clouds. The spring tide at Worthing recedes to its maximum around dawn and dusk. A 5.8 metre* (measured at Shoreham Harbour) falling to 0.0 metres low was just sufficient to uncover the rock and sand terrain beneath the amusement pier. At first glance, the shore appears exclusively sandy and in all respects one of the  least promising of rockpooling shores. Firm sand leads the explorer out to below mid-tide region where the sand gives away to a mixed ground with rocks buried in the sand, a few looser rocks (cobble-sized), and shallow sandy pools. There are straggly strands of the green seaweed Enteromorpha on this shore, and a few red seaweeds try to gain a holdfast, but are generally sparse and unsuccessful colonisers.

(* Readings for Shoreham Harbour entrance)

Hermit Crabs off Worthing (Photograph by Paul Parsons)

Hermit Crabs off Worthing
Photograph by Paul Parsons

Mussel Community

Under the steel girders of the pier is the best area, with the supports providing attachment points of a sizeable mussel community. Mussels are a rich source of food for many animals, and the community including barnacles, provides incidental nutrition and shelter for other communities. However, because of building work on the pier supports, most of the mussels have been scraped off during 1999. There are still thousands with accompanying Dogwhelks. Grey Topshells are common on this shore. 

 Common Name  Scientific Name  Frequency  Comments
 Beadlet Anemone  Actinia equina  Common
No large specimens were seen.
 Snakelocks Anemone  Anemonia viridis  Common  A lot of sand had been deposited and a lot of the sea anemones, included the Snakelocks were covered up. I have seen more on this shore, but were probably more common than Beadlets. 
 Star Ascidian  Botryllus schlosseri  Occasional 
 colonies (c. 9)
Including one on the whelk shell of a Hermit Crab
 Edible Crab  Cancer pagurus  Frequent
Undersized, c. 50 mm broad crabs buried in sand under rocks. 
 Shore Crab  Carcinus maenas  Common
More large ones than usual (20+) but only the small ones made the numbers up.
 Squat Lobster  Galathea squamifera  Common
Only very small ones, many missing a claw, under rocks.
 Rock Goby
 Gobius paganellus  Abundant 
In shallow pools and under rocks
 Lipophrys pholis  Common
In shallow pools and under rocks
 Spider Crab
 Macropodia rostrata  Frequent Although only tiny one was discovered, these crabs are good at disguising themselves and others must have been overlooked.
 Plumose Anemone  Metridium senile  Frequent
A very small number of small white specimens for this area.
 Worm Pipefish  Nerophis lumbriciformis  One Under an Enteromorpha covered rock 15 metres to the east of the pier. Came as a complete surprise as I have never seen this fish on Sussex shores before, although there is a record in the MERMAID database. 
 Hermit Crab  Pagurus bernhardus  Abundant
Only one seen in a Whelk shell, all the others were small inhabiting Grey Topshell, Dogwhelk, Periwinkle, Netted Dogwhelk, and a few other shells. 
 Prawn  Palaemon elegans  Common
No really large pools. Palaemon serratus was probably also present, but all the prawns were small. 
 Hairy Crab  Pilumnus hirtellus  Frequent
Many less than normally discovered on this shore.
 Porcelain Crab
 Pisidia longicornis  Very Common
Underside of rocks and boulders
 Common Goby  Pomatoschistus microps  Abundant
At first, I thought some could be another goby species. Most were juveniles
 Porcelain Crab 
 Porcellana platycheles  Common
Underside of rocks and boulders
 Sea Anemone  Sagartia troglodytes  Common
 (250 +)
Deposited sand obscured this species. There could have been thousands, but they were buried.

26 October 2000
A juvenile Tompot Blenny, Parablennius gattorugine, collected from the shore at Worthing is unusual, although I have seen one before this late in the year when the shore fauna is scanty.  AH.

10 March 2001
Very poor shore fauna in the fading light, after about 6 months of rain most days. Anemones are scarce with just a few Plumose Anemones, an occasional Snakelocks Anemone, and no Sagartia troglodytes to be seen easily. Unusually for this shore, Beadlet Anemones were the commonest. Adult Blennies were discovered at the low tide mark. Some of these had been fighting and showed the head injuries of the male fish after they get into fights.

11 June 2001
Offshore from Brooklands Boating Lake, (1 mile east of Worthing Pier) Common Terns, with their distinctive forked tails, swept low over the sea that was showing the first signs of white horses, and descended to take a feed from just below the surface in one swift swoop. Black-headed Gulls, in breeding livery with a completely dark (brown) head, were attempting the same manoeuvre without the same elegance. A half dozen Cormorants congregated around the post marking the outlet pipe, occasionally diving under. This is a regular flocking area for these fish eating birds with frequently up to 29 birds that can be quickly counted.

Ringed PloverThe Ringed Plover reveals itself by its swift running over the shingle. Without moving it is too well camouflaged and difficult to spot. The summer residents birds and much plumper than the lean winter visitors. As the tide ebbs and the water recedes, more (a half dozen in 50 metres of sand) of these small birds appear on the emerging sand flats.

Diadumene cincta on a Dogwhelk shellUnder the sea, Paul Parsons returned from a brief foray with a handful of very small Actinothoe sea anemones, a small (sacoglassan sea slug) sea hare Elysia viridis, and some other very small orange anemones with whitish orange tentacles. After close study I think these are the often overlooked Diadumene cincta. The mouth is orange in some specimens, but the most useful diagnostic difference from the similar Plumose Anemones is their instant jerky reaction when touched.

Diadumene cinctaActinothoe

Sea Anemones (Link)

17 September 2001

Pagurus cuanensis in a winkle shell (Photograph by Andy Horton)I recorded my first specimen of the Hairy Hermit Crab, Pagurus cuanensis, intertidally at Worthing Pier.

It looked very strange at first, like a small Long-legged Spider Crab, Macropodia rostrata, living in a Dogwhelk, Nucella, shell.

The low spring tides at Worthing was nothing special. The Maja Spider Crab had a missing leg. Bait colllectors test if they are soft or not by pulling off their legs, although with this one it may have had an accident.

The juvenile Herring Gulls, Larus argentatus, paddled in the pools, their legs trying to induce worms to the surface. The adults were a bit lazier, possibly hunting for the Squat Lobsters, Galathea squamifera, which were common, small ones, under rocks.

16 October 2001

The tide went out a long way past the foot of the pier, but the light faded fast and it was hard to see anything. Fish were represented by young BullheadsTaurulus bubalis, 5-Bearded Rockling adults Ciliata mustela, a few first year juvenile Common Blennies Lipophrys pholis, and a few Sand Gobies Pomatoschistus minutus, and a solitary young Tompot Blenny, Parablennius gattorugine.

Crustaceans included a few small Hermit Crabs Pagurus bernhardus, in Grey Topshells, Squat Lobsters, Galathea squamifera, Shore Crabs Carcinus maenas (20+) in larger numbers than in the summer as well as Edible Crabs Cancer pagurus (20+) were hiding under rocks and boulders, partially buried in the sand and gravel.

There were no sea anemones noticeably in the murky light, no draping Plumose from the pier supports, or Sagartia troglodytes between the stones (most of the sand had been scoured away) and no Snakelocks Anemones seen in the pools. Beadlet Anemones were common under boulders.

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