Rare sightings – Jelly Baby triplets in North Devon........!

Animals were seen in North Devon on Saturday that even television does not show.  
Visitors to the AONB’s Discovery Day at Combe Martin on 21st May were able to view tiny shore animals down the microscope at Coastwise North Devon’s Workshop, and witness a rarely seen event – the birth of Beadlet anemones, the familiar red “jellies” of the shore.

Building on the  success of a similar workshop held a week before at Northam, Coastwise North Devon volunteers took over the Professor Blenny’s Laboratory in the Museum for the day, and set up  4 microscopes, together with laptops and a digital scope  to show video clips.  
Project Co-ordinator Jim Monroe gave an introductory talk, and several Coastwise enthusiasts acted as guides.

Samples of seaweed and small rocks encrusted with animals had been collected locally and replenished by finds brought back from the afternoon Shore Safari, one of which provided great excitement.  Lucas Kahn from Combe Martin (click highlighted text for picture) had collected a small beadlet anemone.  When it was placed under the microscope to view it more closely, out popped a perfect miniature of itself, the first of three in a rarely seen birthing event.  

Paula Ferris for Coastwise says “This was a great finale to an interesting day, something it would be impossible to see in the wild.  Even in captivity it is unusual to capture the moment as we did, very thrilling.   Intriguingly, these anemones can reproduce asexually by budding, or sexually, with the young being born through the anemone’s ‘mouth’ opening.” Zoologist Janet Down was able to show this event to a fascinated audience (click highlighted text for picture).

Over 50 visitors attended the microscope workshop, first viewing some larger animals that look dull out of water, such as barnacles and tube worms which are constantly active feeding when seen in a dish of water under the scope. Then they graduated smaller more mobile animals such as the delicate sea slug, Polycera quadrilineta (click highlighted text for picture), which, though  common amongst the weed at this time of year, is rarely seen as it is only a couple of millimetres long.

Coastwise’s Microscope Workshop project received £500 funding from North Devon Coasts AONB towards the purchase of 3 microscopes to be donated to one of 3 local interpretation centres for public use.  
Introductory workshops staffed by Coastwise volunteers were held at: Northam – 14 May, and Combe Martin – 21 May, with one at Mortehoe to be arranged.

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