6 sea creatures you can spot on the Dorset coast

PUBLISHED: 13:08 24 June 2019 | UPDATED: 13:08 24 June 2019

What will you find on your rockpooling adventure this summer?

What will you find on your rockpooling adventure this summer?

© Alexander Mustard/2020VISION

As well as the usual suspects, keep an eye out for some new species on the Dorset coast this summer, says Sally Welbourn of Dorset Wildlife Trust

Rockpool rambleRockpool ramble

For many of us, what lies beneath the waves remains a mystery, but the secrets of the deep are sometimes revealed with unusual marine wildlife sightings along our coast. Some species we're simply seeing more of, such as jellyfish, whilst others such as the cushion starfish are being recorded for the first time here in Dorset. This is because some wildlife gravitates towards warmer climes - and our sea temperatures are rising. Climate change indicator species, such as the furrowed crab, are becoming more of a feature of our coastlines as they move further east. Will this have an impact on our native populations? Potentially the new arrivals could compete for food, so populations could fluctuate. Certainly the number of different species you may spot on our seashore could increase. So this summer, keep an eye out for some new residents who are set to call Dorset their home.


Eight jellyfish species have been recorded throughout Dorset in recent years, including compass, moon, blue and barrel jellyfish. On occasions these sightings have included swarms of them; the barrel jellyfish have been most common, first appearing in large numbers in May 2014, probably as a result of storms churning up nutrients in the water. The upside of more jellyfish in our waters has been the local sightings of wildlife that feed on them such as the leatherback turtles and oceanic sunfish.

Barrel jellyfishBarrel jellyfish

Furrowed crab

Also known as Montagu's crab, though this is a very common crustacean in Devon and Cornwall, it has only recently been discovered at Kimmeridge. It is easily identified by its immensely strong claws which surround its brown body.

Furrowed crab at Kimmeridge with its distinctive large clawsFurrowed crab at Kimmeridge with its distinctive large claws


We've already had sightings of pods of dolphins frolicking in the water at Studland and off Portland this year. The most common species seen here in Dorset is the bottlenose dolphin, which are famous for being playful. Lyme Bay is home to the most southerly population of white-beaked dolphins in the UK.

Bottlenose dolphinsBottlenose dolphins


Dorset is home to both the spiny seahorse and the short-snouted seahorse. An unusual number of seahorses were washed up on local beaches this spring. Whilst the cause is unknown, it could suggest that there are good populations of these mysterious creatures along the Dorset coast, which is good news. Dorset Wildlife Trust would like to hear of any other seahorse sightings this summer so please do let us know.

A spiny seahorse washed up on the beach this spring {can you lose the text on the photo please{A spiny seahorse washed up on the beach this spring {can you lose the text on the photo please{

Small cushion starfish

This delicate starfish has become a common sight in rockpools at Kimmeridge since it was first spotted in 2014. It is normally found along the west coast of Britain or further south in Portugal and the Mediterranean.

Small cushion starfishSmall cushion starfish

Thick topshells

Also known as the toothed topshell, these sea snails are common further west; from no sightings in the early 2000s nearly two decades later they are a common sight in the rockpools at Kimmeridge. Grazing on algae on the rocks at high tide, they can be distinguished from similar, snail-like periwinkles and other topshells by the 'tooth' just inside of the mouth of the shell.

Toothed topshellToothed topshell

Follow the Seashore Code

Always put rockpool creatures, rocks and seaweed back where you found them. If you're in or on the water, admire dolphins and other marine creatures from afar without disturbing them. Do not touch jellyfish in the water or on the beach as they can still have a mild sting even when dead.

Tell us what you have seen!

If you see special, rare or unusual wildlife on the Dorset coast this summer, then contact us on Twitter @DWTMarine or faceboook/dorsetwildlife to share your marine sightings.


Let's Celebrate Marine Weeks!

27 July - 11 August

Coinciding nicely with the start of the school summer holidays Marine Weeks is a great way to get children interested in the flora and fauna that live by, in or on the sea here in Dorset. Take a cruise on the Fleet Explorer at Chesil Beach; visit the Fine Foundation Wild Seas Centre in Kimmeridge and have a rockpooling adventure or explore their snorkel trail to get close-up to the marine world (find more at dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk/wild-seas-centre), or try one of these marine themed events run by DWT.


27 July: Kimmeridge Dolphin Watch

Learn how to spot and identify dolphins and other marine animals from Kimmeridge cliffs as part of the 2019 National Whale & Dolphin Watch survey. Runs 11.30am - 3.30pm. Wild Seas Centre, Kimmeridge.


30 July: Shark School

Find out about some of the biggest and most exciting sharks found in our Dorset waters. Runs 11am - 12.30pm. Fine Foundation Chesil Beach Centre.


1 August: Your Blue Backyard

Discover what lies beneath Kimmeridge Bay with Andy Marsh (DWT marine warden) who will reveal the underwater world with his live viewing underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle and static video cameras. Drop-in event, weather dependent. Runs 11am - 5pm.

Fine Foundation Wild Seas Centre, Kimmeridge.


2 August: Seashore Safari

Join this guided exploration of the Fleet Lagoon at low tide. Hunt for the marine wildlife which calls this place home, and learn to spot the tell-tale tracks and signs of hidden species. Runs 1.30 - 3pm. Fine Foundation Chesil Beach Centre 01305 206191.


8 August: Fleet Explorer

Join this boat trip and explore one of the UK's finest Marine Protected Areas. Find out about the incredible wildlife of the Fleet Lagoon and how important it is to protect our seas. Runs 11.15am - 12.15pm. Booking essential 01305 206191.

Find full details for all these events and more at dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk/events.

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