Starfish, Spider Crabs and Snakelocks 



A regular column from,

the Ilfracombe-based online guide to everything we find on UK Beaches.


North Devon has excellent rockpooling beaches. Our rocky coasts and Devonian slate make for plentiful nooks and crannies in which sea creatures find safety when the tide is out. And many are accessible to curious humans!


These are just some of the more common creatures which can be seen here in Ilfracombe at this time of year. In future issues of Focus, we'll look at more and more creatures and some of the more exotic visitors.



The most common starfish we find in the rockpools on the North Devon coast is this one, appreopriately called the Common Starfish.


Starfish are not fish at all. They are actually related to sea urchins and do not swim. Although they have been known to thrust and tumble through the water, they are more usually seen walking slowly across rocks on their thousands of sticky tube feet.


So they're definitely not fish - but often they are not even 'stars' either. They are often found with one or more legs missing, so they look more like an X than a star!


Starfish have an incredible ability to regenerate if needed. So, if they lose a leg, they can grow another. But, even more amazingly, a lost leg can even grow a new body. In the photo above, the tiny starfish leg on my finger tip is growing itself a whole new starfish with four new legs!


Starfish feed by effectively extruding its own stomach, digesting the food (say a mussel) outside of its body and turn it to liquid and then sucking lliquid and stomach back inside - this is what is happening in the slightly speeded up footage above. 




In the last of these columns, we looked at shore crabs. There are several species of crabs we are likely to find on our shores, but here is the biggest.


The spider crabs gets its name because its long thin legs are quite spidery, but it has nothiing else in common with actual spiders.



Spider crabs like to hide amongst the rocks and seaweed and so have a unique talent not shared with our other common crab species - their spiky shells attract rubbish. All sorts of weeds and bits and bobs stick to their carapaces which helps them to hide away.


The young spider crab below has got himself a fine seaweed hairdo!


While the spider crab is not a spider but a crab, there is also a sea spider which is not a crab, but a distant marine cousin of the spider...


It is about the same sise as a spider and looks very similar as you can see in the very brief clip below.



Very common on the rocks of Harbour Beach is the Snakelocks Anemone. Occasionally brown, this anemone is uusually green pink-tipped tentacles cause by the (prefectly healthy) presence of algae.


Unlike beadlet anemones (the small red ones we looked at last month), snakelocks have much longer, more numerous tentacles which makes them appear more graceful.


The usual colouring of snakelocks is green and pink (above) but, more rarely, can also be all shades of brown (below).


The tentacles of the anemone are sticky and, as they wave about in the water, they catch unsuspecting small fish and other bits of food which they pop into their mouth - centrally placed in the middle of all those tentacles.


Below, slightly brownish snakelocks anemones all tucked up waiting for the tide to come in.


To see last month's column -looking at shore crabs, barnacles, dog whelks and beadlet anemones - click here


For more on all of these creatures - and many many more! - head to