Egg masses and rams’ horns

Woody Head, Flat Rock and just about any other sandy beach, especially if it has a rock platform, are places of treasure for the sharp-eyed. The more types of environment, the more you will see. And the more often you go there and look, the more you will see. Finds are like the pieces of giant 3D jigsaw puzzles, giving you clues about the lives of plants and animals that live there, and their interrelationships. All you have to do is put it together.

For instance, you may see what looks like a bit of congealed sand washed up on the beach. It’s actually the egg mass of a mollusc. Apologies that it’s slightly out of focus, but you get the idea.

Moon snail sand collar

Each species of moon snail (species of Polinices) has a very recognisable egg mass, sometimes washed up. Polinices sordidus produces egg ‘sausages’ and Polinices didymus sand collars.

Egg sausage of Polinices sordidus

There’s a good photo of a floating egg sausage here.

Polinices didymus, producer of the sand collar egg mass

Moon snails are also called ‘sand-plough snails’, because that’s exactly what they do in pursuit of their prey, other snails. They drill a hole in the prey shell and scrape away at the flesh with their ‘radula’.

If you find what looks like orange spaghetti on the beach, it’s the egg mass of the sea hare (Aplysia dactylomela).

Aplysia dactylomela egg mass

And here’s the culprit.

The sea hare Aplysia dactylomela, munching its way through algae in a nearby rock pool

Another washed-up shell is the ram’s horn – actually the ballast chamber of a deep-sea squid-like creature, Spirula spirula. Open-ocean goose barnacles often attach themselves to the floating shell.

Ram's horn with goose barnacles

I’ll post more photos from time to time as I find interesting things.

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