100 Species - Edinburgh Shoreline Community Hub List
We would love to encourage people to get involved in this project by getting creative and bringing to life one or more of our fascinating species!
Below you will find a little information on each. Please feel free to get creative individually or as a group. The sky is the limit when thinking of your creation. Feel free to sing, dance, write a poem, paint, knit, or create in any way you’d like.
Where possible please use upcycled or recycled materials.
Once you have looked at our selection below and have chosen your species, please email the Edinburgh Shoreline hub to tell us the following:
- Your name
- Which species you have chosen
- The best email address we can contact you on
- What type of creation you are thinking of submitting.
You can contact us here:
Closing date for your completed creation is 30th June 2023.
The basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) also known as a bone shark, elephant shark, sail-fish, sun-fish, is the second-largest living shark. They can be seen from May to September swimming up and down slowly by themselves or in small shoals (looking as if they are sunbathing). Due to its slow life it has a small brain for its size. Basking sharks are harmless to humans as they are filter-feeders. Swimming along with their enormous mouths wide open, the water filters through its mouth and over the gills trapping unsuspecting Zooplankton in its mucus covered ‘gill rakers’. It also has up to one hundred teeth per row all of which are little and back-curving. It is an egg laying shark. Overfishing for its oil and as a food now means it is endangered and needs protection.
The Twaite Shad (Alosa fallax) or May fish lives in the sea, and feeds on invertebrates, plankton and small fish around the coast, but when it is 3-4 years old, migrates into estuaries then swims up freshwater rivers to spawn, usually between April and June, which is why they are called ‘May fish’. They can travel up to 200km and like to go back to the same place to spawn. So, the Forth is ideal for them, however there are none left here. Populations have declined everywhere due to pollution, overfishing and loss of essential habitat.
The Pogge (Agonus cataphractus) commonly known as ‘hook-nose’ or ‘armed bullhead’ as they a have a pair of strong, sharp spines on their snouts, as well as a very sharp spine on each gill cover. Looking closely you may notice all the little whiskery ‘barbels’ around their mouths and 4-5 darker greyish brown “saddles” across their backs. The yellow fins are beautiful, with their dark stripes and spots. No doubt their colouring is because they spend most of their lives partly buried in sand, mud and gravel (between 20 m and 500 m). They feed on small crustaceans, molluscs, brittle stars and worms. They spawn from February to May in the bases of kelps and whelks, with the eggs taking a long time to hatch. Their habitats are being lost from oil and gas exploration and other seabed disturbance.
The Butterfish’ (Pholis gunnellus) from its slimy skin or rock gunnel is up to 25 cm long, yellowish to reddish brown with dark bars or mottles, thick fleshy lips and small, conical teeth. You can find them on the shore from mid to low tide mark amongst seaweed, under rocks and in crevices. They are able to breathe air when the tide goes out and splash around if you uncover them. They may also be found 40m below the surface.
Lampreys are an ancient, pre-historic type of fish that look a bit like eels but are unlike any other species in Britain or Ireland. They have with 2 fins on their backs, 7 gills in a line behind their eyes and a suckered mouth. They are parasites, attaching themselves to the sides or gills fish and rasping them with their teeth. A fluid comes from their mouths called lamphredin, preventing the victim’s blood from clotting causing them to die from blood loss or infection.
They live in coastal waters, and when 3-4 years old they swim up rivers in the spring to spawn. The young larvae, or ammocoetes, spend several years in river sediment (and are an important source of food for many birds and fish) before coming back to the sea. The Forth is a perfect habitat for them, but sadly only the river lamprey can still be found here. They are eaten in many countries and nearly died out everywhere due to pollution, but this has improved in some places.
The larger Sea Lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) sometimes referred to as the “vampire fish” has many more concentric rows of teeth than the river lamprey, it is similar in shape and colour but with black marbling along its back. It can return to the sea after spawning and has special cell membranes on the surface of the gills which help to allow it to switch between fresh and salt water.
The smaller River Lamprey (Lampetra fluviatilis) has a sucker mouth with two circles of teeth. It has a greenish-brown back, golden yellow sides and a white underside. They die after spawning as they cannot feed in freshwater.
Sand eels (Ammodytes tobianus) otherwise known as sand lance, are around 20 cm, silvery, slightly yellow green and blue with a pointed jaw and a small and distinctively forked tail fan.
You can find them from mid-tide level on sand and down to depths of 30 metres. They swim in huge schools with heads down ready to dart into the sand at any sign of danger. During the winter they bury themselves 20-50 cm deep in the sand, coming out at night to feed. Only having bottom teeth, their jaws form a tube for sucking in zooplankton, large diatoms, worms, small crustaceans and small fish. Females lay 4000-20,000 eggs, which stick to the sand grains.
They are important food for many seabirds and over-fishing (they were used as fuel for power stations) has been linked to a decline in the breeding success of several seabirds in particular puffins.
Cat Sharks (Scyliorhinus canicula) are a small shark, up to 75 cm long, also known as lesser-spotted dogfish, rough hound and rock salmon. They live close to the seabed in shallow muddy and sandy waters down to 100m and in rocky areas. A predator, it hunts at night and has a very varied diet including gastropod molluscs, cephalopods, crustaceans, worms and small fish. If threatened it will curl up into a donut shape. You can often find their 5-7cm egg cases, or ‘mermaid’s purses’, which have curly tendrils at each corner.
We need sharks! Their skin has been used as a model for creating antibacterial, hydro/aerodynamic and antifouling clothing; their fin shapes have helped improve the stability of airplanes and their tails have inspired tidal steam generators.
Alaria esculenta means ‘edible wings’. Other common names are wing kelp, honeyware, Wakame (in Japan) and bladder locks. A traditional food which can be eaten fresh or cooked. More recent uses find it included in alcoholic drinks (Dabberlocks Grappa), shampoo, cosmetics and as a supplement to restore the skins elasticity. It is normally found in the subtidal area on exposed rocky shores, growing in about 8m of water, but where there are strong waves, as much as 35 metres. It has a special ‘foot’ called a ‘holdfast’ or haptera which attaches it to rocks and stones on the bottom. It grows quickly, increasing up to 5.5% per day, in 2m long ribbons which are often tattered by the waves. It is now being grown on ropes and harvested in many places.
The sea mouse (Aphrodita aculeata) is marine worm. Its beautiful iridescent bristles normally, have a deep red sheen, warning off predators, but when the light shines on them perpendicularly, they shimmer blue, green and gold. This effect is produced by lots of hexagonal cylinders inside its spines, which “perform much more efficiently than man-made optical fibres. Infact experiments have shown they can be used to grow really efficient nanoscale wires.
An active predator, using its little paddles, it burrows and creeps searching for dead and decaying bodies of small crabs and other worms on the seabed. Living just below the intertidal zone, usually on sandy or muddy bottoms, they can often be found washed ashore after storms
Sand mason worm
This is a 30cm segmented burrowing worm (Lanice conchilega) which builds a several centimetres high tube of large sand grains and shell pieces cemented with mucus. Found in intertidal and subtidal sediments, sometimes alone, sometimes in populations of several thousand per square metre. Its fringe like tentacles search for, among other things, copepods, algae, plankton and faeces of molluscs. It can retreat rapidly into its tube and can extend its tube if it becomes buried in shifting sediment
This is a Polychaete worm (Cirratulus cirratus), or marine bristle worm. It lives in burrows in mud or muddy sand, often underneath or between rocks and is a filter feeder, catching particles floating past with its tentacles and putting them into its mouth
It has a row of 4 to 8 large black eyes on each side of its head and its long (up to 30cm) body is divided into up to 150 segments. The first segment has two groups of about eight feeding tentacles. Others have short bristles, and there are pairs of gills all along its body that look like tufts of red string.
Velvet Swimming Crab
Velvet swimming crab (Necora puber) or devil crab, fighter crab, or lady crab is the largest of the swimming crab family found in our coastal waters. With red eyes, the top of its beautiful blue and red body is covered with fine velvety hairs. The hind legs are strong swimming paddles – and powerful enough to snap a pencil in half. While most crabs will run away this one will turn and face its attacker, waving its pincers. It lives on rocky foreshores under stones and boulders and is an important scavenger and mollusc eater. Despite being so small it is one of the main crabs that is fished.
These little plovers (Charadrius hiaticula) breed in areas with sparse vegetation, on beaches around the coast, and have also now begun breeding inland in sand and gravel pits and former industrial sites. They forage for flies, spiders, marine worms, crustaceans, and molluscs. If a potential predator approaches the nest, the adult will walk away from it, calling to attract the intruder and feigning a broken wing. Once far enough from the nest, the plover flies off. Many can be seen here all year round, but birds from Europe winter in Britain, and birds from Greenland and Canada pass through on migration. They have different identifying features depending on the sex, age and season. Their numbers are steadily getting lower.
Pochards (Aythya ferina) are diving ducks. They form large flocks in winter, often mixed with other diving ducks. They prefer shallower water where they can ‘up end’ rather than diving in deeper water where there is often more food. They like to hang out in open lakes and gravel pits in the summer, foraging for plants and seeds, snails, small fish and insects. Most come from Eastern Europe – few breed here – and can best be seen in the Autumn and Winter.
In Winter and Spring, male pochards are easy to spot with their reddish-brown head, black breast and tail and pale grey body. But when they grow new feathers they resemble the females – brown with a greyish body and pale cheeks. This species is classed as ‘vulnerable.’
Harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) are one of the smallest species of cetacean. Like its name, it stays close to coastal areas or river estuaries, where it can most often be seen. These are often areas where there is a lot of water mixing, with important concentrations of schools of small fish like herring, pollack, cod, capelin and sprat. They can catch nearly 200 fish per hour during the day and 500 per hour at night,
The harbour porpoise often swims up rivers, sometimes hundreds of kilometres from the sea. They tend to be solitary foragers but do sometimes hunt in small packs.
Strandings are common. A lot die in commercial fishing bycatch, and they are also threatened by environmental changes.
The orca (Orcinus orca) or killer whale is a toothed whale, the largest member of the oceanic dolphin family. They are highly intelligent, social and make a wide variety of communicative sounds. Each pod has distinctive noises that its members will recognize even at a distance. Many pods contain very stable matrilineal family groups. They are very protective of their young, nursing for up to two years and sharing care. They hunt in pods, using echolocation to communicate. At the top of the food chain, they have very diverse diets, feasting on fish, penguins, and marine mammals such as seals, sea lions, and even whales, using their four-inch-long teeth. They also eat fish, squid, and seabirds. They can swim up to 40 miles a day and dive daily sometimes down to 500 feet.
Orcas are an endangered species.
Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) sing some of the longest and most complex songs in the animal kingdom. They also make some of the longest migrations of any mammal in the world. They feed in the cold waters of northern hemisphere then swim south to breed in warmer waters. They do the same in the southern hemisphere but in reverse as the seasons are the opposite. So whales from each hemisphere never meet one another.
Up to 17 metres in length, they use their flippers for hunting by slapping the water, as well as swimming and can be recognised by their giant tail. Their heads are covered in ‘tubercles’, each containing a single hair, acting like a cat’s whiskers.
Using their baleen plates, they filter out plankton, tiny crustaceans and small schooling fish. An adult humpback whale can consume up to 1360kg of food each day
Limpets (Patella Vulgata) have a cone-shaped shell and a strong foot. They are part of the sea snail family and can be found in rockpools clamped to rocks during low tide. They have over 100 rows of teeth yet only use the first 10 rows when feeding. Due to feeding on algae which they scrap off rock surfaces, their teeth wear out and are continuously replaced every 12-48 hours. Limpets move around to eat when the tide is high but return home as it goes out, over time a scar is created in the rock from their shell and this specific home spot gives them the biggest advantage to survive until the next high tide.
Ocean quahog (Arctica islandica) or Icelandic cyprine, mahogany clam. “Quahog” is an abbreviation of the Native American name “poquauhock” and their shells were once used as money (wampum).
An edible bivalve mollusc that lives buried in sandy seabeds, it filters organic matter from the water column using its siphon. Often, the siphon is all that is visible above the seabed and the end is sometimes nibbled off by hungry cod. It is the last surviving species of a family of similar clams that dates back to the Jurassic era. They are very slow growing (reaching 2 inches shell height) and extremely long-lived. The oldest one found was 507 years. As it lives subtidally it can only be collected by dredging. It is a threatened species and its presence can help designate a Marine Conservation Zone.
Thick lipped mullet
The thick lipped mullet live on small crustaceans, polychaetes, molluscs and the eggs of fish. The female lays her eggs in a large mass of up to 200 on the seabed under a stone or in the empty shell of a bivalve, and both parents take turns to guards it closely until the larvae hatch.
Light bulb sea squirt
Up to 20 mm high, the sea squirt’s (Clavelina lepadiformis) transparent ‘tunic’ and visible yellow or white internal organs give it its common name. Groups of 3 to 3OO squirts are joined at the base by short stolons, attached to rocks, stones and seaweed in the sublittoral, to a depth of about 50 m.
They have an oral siphon at the top which draws water in and at the bottom an atrial siphon which pushes water out. Between these is an Endostyle, through which plankton and detritus filtered out of the water are moved up to its oesophagus.
Sharks, skates, and other bottom-dwelling fish eat sea squirts. And many small organisms like the shelter and squiring water squirts inside their colonies.
Fuzzy Sea Cucumber
This red spotty slug (Psolus phantapus) is usually found deeper than 20 meters on gravel or muddy habitats. It is a scavenger and likes places where food drifts by on the current. Most of its body is hidden in the ground and if disturbed, it retracts its tentacles. It has 10 of these round its mouth. They are covered with mucus onto which Algae, aquatic invertebrates, and waste particles stick and it puts these into its mouth one after the other.
Kelp flies (Coelopa frigida) tend to aggregate on beaches where there is lots of stranded algae, sometimes swarming inland. They have a dark brown to black body, lighter coloured legs, and large, translucent wings.
They need a constant supply of algae to feed and lay their eggs on, so,coastal beaches with stranded seaweed are their preferred environment. Their eggs are sensitive to temperature – when it is high they incubate quickly, when low, more slowly.
The common whelk (Buccinium undatum) is a large edible whelk growing up to 10 cm high and 6 cm wide. Found on muddy sand, gravel and also rock sea bottom, sometimes also in brackish waters. Occasionally these can be found alive at low tide. Whelks prefer colder temperatures, and cannot survive at temperatures above 29 °C. They do not adapt well to life in the inter-tidal zone, due to their intolerance to low salt. If exposed to air, they may crawl out of their its shells, risking drying up. Empty egg masses, known as ‘sea wash balls’, are often found on the strandline and are sometimes mistaken for sponges.
They feed on live bivalves, and are, in turn, preyed upon by several fish and crustaceans.
Overfished, they have been in decline since the early 1970s, especially in the North Sea. Vast beds of empty shells have been discovered where living whelks are no longer present.
Seagrass or Eelgrass
Seagrasses (Zostera noltii & Zostera marina) are the world’s only marine flowering plants. Their incredible adaptations have allowed them to successfully colonise all continents except for Antarctica. Seagrasses have been labelled as “ecosystem engineers”; they create lush habitats that host a huge variety of fish species, small invertebrates, burrowing anenomes, urchins and bivalve molluscs. Aside from creating biodiversity hotspots, seagrass meadows also efficiently absorb large amounts of carbon dissolved in our oceans in a process described as “blue carbon”. Here in Scotland, we can spot 2 species of seagrass, Zostera marina and Zostera noltii. Restoration Forth aims to enhance seagrass meadows in the Firth of Forth.
Oyster (Ostrea edulis) shells are usually oval, or pear shaped, with one shell (the flatter one) fitting within the other (concave) shell. The shells are rough in texture, coloured yellow with brown to blue concentric lines. The native oyster which was once abundant in the Firth of Forth is now extinct here. This is due to overexploitation since native oysters were an important food source. Restoration Forth aims to bring back native oysters to the Firth of Forth
Once you have chosen your species please email the Edinburgh shoreline hub to tell us the following:
- Your name
- Which species you have chosen
- The best email address we can contact you on
- What type of creation you are submitting
You can contact us about the project here:
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