Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Martin Summers' Photographs

A few days ago Martin Summers presented the Diary with a disk on which there were several hundred photographs showing the wildlife and geology of West Ardnamurchan.  The Diary had never seen most of the plants and animals on the disk and, in many cases, wouldn't have had a clue what they were.

This isn't surprising.  Martin is a wildlife ranger who works for Forest Holidays down in the West Country of England, is a regular visitor to West Ardnamurchan, and knows what he's looking for.  He's an expert not only on wildlife but also in geology, to the extent that he runs courses for the Field Studies Council.

A selection of Martin's pictures will appear on the Diary over the next few days, starting with some of the sea creatures which he found in the rock pools along the coast below Trevor Potts' Ardnamurchan Campsite.  The first, above, is a long-clawed porcelain crab, Pisidia longicornis.  It's not surprising if people don't spot this character in our local rock pools - his carapace is only about 10mm across.

The second picture is of a much more common crab, the shore crab, Carcinus maenas, but it's not the crab that's interesting.  At the bottom of his carapace is something that looks like a pouch filled with the crab's eggs, but is, in fact, the result of an invasion by a rare parasitic barnacle called Sacculina.  The life cycle of this beast is so weird and wonderful that all the Diary can do is point readers to the Society of Biologists blog, here, where a grim tale of parasitism, body snatching and chemical castration is told in horrid detail.

It's a relief to see this character, a much more normal animal called a squat lobster.  This is a crustacean which the Diary has had the pleasure of eating, having been given them by one of our local creel fishermen who catch them with their prawns, but has never found one in the rock pools along our coastline.  It's lovely to eat, but small by the standards of proper lobsters.

We really should have found this, the common starfish, Asterias rubens, in one of the local rock pools, but we haven't.  It usually grows to about 30cm and, like all echinoderms, gets itself around using tube feet which work on an advanced hydraulic system which it invented millions of years ago.  It has one gruesome ability - to extrude their stomachs out of its mouth in order to digest prey too big to swallow.

Lastly in this first set of Martin's pictures, this is the common brittle star of British and Irish coasts, appropriately named Ophiothrix fragilis as he has a nasty habit of losing arms when they break off.  We've found these beautifully delicate animals in tropical waters but never here.

1 comment:

  1. martin is a wonderful ranger at deerpark with a vast wealth of knowledge