National Trust Purbeck Wildlife

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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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Author: Kevin Rideout

National Trust Visitor Experience Officer based at Studland

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