National Trust Purbeck Wildlife


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Animal or Vegetable?

sea beard (top) and horn wrack

sea beard (top) and horn wrack

Walking along the tideline this month you could be excused for thinking that these two types of marine life are seaweeds. Surprisingly though, they are actually colonies of tiny animals that have joined together for mutual benefit. Known as polyps, these animals are similar to small sea anemones, filter feeders with many tentacles.
Horn wrack is a type of bryozoan or ‘sea mat’, which looks like a clump of flat, dried brown leaves. Look closely and you will see a mass of tiny cells, each one home to an individual animal.
Sea beard is a hydroid, or ‘sea fir’, where each animal is aligned along a series of stems. The advantage of living together is that each individual is interconnected by a tube, called a stolon, which allows the sharing of food throughout the colony.


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Seriously Scary Spiders

cave spider???????????????????????????????????????????????????Repelled by light and living in permanently dark, damp habitats such as cellars, mines and sewers, the European cave spider, Meta menardi, is especially creepy and even a spider enthusiast may feel a little unsettled by them.
The storage bunkers beneath some of Studland’s WWII buildings provide an ideal habitat and a good number were seen on a recent visit there, catching mosquitoes in their webs or waiting to pounce on moths seeking a winter refuge. Beside them were large, white teardrop-shaped egg sacs suspended from the roof on silk threads. The spiderlings that emerge from them will initially be attracted to light, helping them to colonise new areas.
These spiders are amongst the largest found in the U.K. and, although not rare, they often go unnoticed. Researchers have recently discovered that they have some of the most elastic silk of any spider species, stretching up to 7.5 times its initial length.