Meet some of the locals

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Sea urchins

Sea urchins have a hard globular shell made up of fused plates of calcium carbonate covered with skin and movable spines. They move around the reef using retractable tube feet which operate by pumping water in and out of the feet, creating suction. These feet help the urchin to turn itself over and hold onto rocks during heavy wave action. The two most common sea urchins at Long Reef are the spiny sea urchin Centrostephanus rodgersii and the purple sea urchin Heliocidaris erythrogramma.

Image courtesy Isobel Bennett

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Sea stars

Sea stars come in many shapes and sizes and are often well camouflaged. They feed mainly on algae but they will eat slow moving or immobile animals by protruding their stomachs outside their mouths, enveloping their prey and then digesting it outside their bodies.

Image courtesy Isobel Bennett

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Cunjevoi

Cunjevoi is a very ancient animal that has a tough leathery external casing. They attach to the seaward side of the rock platform. When the tide is in, these sea-squirts collect food by pumping large quantities of water through a large sieve inside their bodies.

Image courtesy Peter Mitchell

 

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Zebra snails

Zebra snail (Austrocochlea porcata) are common spiral shells with black and white stripes. The width and number of bands are determined by changing environmental factors. They feed on microscopic algae.

Image courtesy www.daveharasti.com

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Barnacles

Barnacles are related to crabs but are hidden behind a protective barrier of calcium plates forming a circle around the animal. More plates at the top form a ‘door’ that they can open or close, depending on the tide. They fasten themselves to the rock by secreting a fast-drying cement that is among the most powerful natural glues known. Barnacles feed through feather-like appendages called cirri, which rapidly extend and retract through the ‘door’ at the top combing the water for microscopic organisms. The animal quickly withdraws into its protective shell if it senses a potential threat or when the tide goes out.

Image courtesy Isobel Bennett

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Waratah anemones

Waratah anemones are easy to spot at low tide as they look like maroon-coloured blobs, but when the tide comes in they open up to look like a rich, red flower. The ‘flower’ is in fact tentacles, which are armed with minute stinging cells. These tentacles reach into the water to catch food.

Image courtesy Isobel Bennett

 

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Neptunes necklace

Neptunes necklace (Hormosira banksii) is a brown algae found in abundance on mid-tidal rocks and in rock pools. The fronds consist of rounded beads that are full of air to keep the plant upright in the water. It can withstand exposure to the air because it has a slimy layer that conserves moisture. This algae is an important habitat and food source for many small crustaceans, juvenile fish and sea urchins.

Image courtesy Isobel Bennett

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Blue ringed octopus

Blue ringed octopus are small with a body about 5 cm. They feed mostly on crabs but their bite can be lethal to humans so these animals should be left alone. Usually a dull brown colour and normally well camouflaged but when irritated they light up with vivid blue lines and circles. Octopus are highly intelligent animals.

Image courtesy Jack Hannan

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Chitons

Chitons are ancient molluscs with eight shell plates and a broad foot. This foot allows them to hold on very tightly to rock surfaces. Chitons feed on a wide range of algae, from microscopic to large plants.

Image courtesy Isobel Bennett

 

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Snapping shrimps

Snapping shrimps have a large right nipper that they snap loudly to stun their prey, such as small fish. They then pull their food into their burrow to eat it. Snapping shrimps are a major source of noise in the ocean and you have probably heard them while snorkelling. The species at Long Reef grows to about 7 cm.

Image courtesy www.daveharasti.com

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Seagrass

Eelgrass (Zostera) is a type of seagrass, which are the only flowering plants that can live underwater. They grow in sheltered shallow waters in sand or mud anchored in the sediment by a root-like structure called a rhizome. Seagrasses are important habitat for many species of plants and animals.

Image courtesy Isobel Bennett

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Nudibranchs

Nudibranchs are molluscs, like snails and octopus but because most are lacking a shell their common name, nudibranch, refers to their naked or exposed gills. They are carnivorous, feeding on sponges and sea anemones and because of their vulnerability have sophisticated defence mechanisms. Many nudibranchs are brightly coloured and are a favourite of scuba divers.

Image courtesy www.daveharasti.com

 

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Flatworms

Flatworms are very thin leaf-shaped and flexible, sliding over rocks and swimming with a graceful rippling movement. Their mouths are in the middle of the underside of their bodies. They eat dead animals or capture small animals by wrapping themselves around their prey and entangling it in slime.

Image courtesy Isobel Bennett

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Limpets

Limpets have a cone-shaped shell. They move slowly across the rocks grazing on microscopic algae or larger seaweeds. They use the suction pressure from their very large foot to hold on to rock surfaces.

Image courtesy Isobel Bennett

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Bubble shells

Bubble shells are sea slugs with very thin shells. There are at least two species of bubble shell in the rock pools at Long Reef. The large one is Hydatina physis and the small one is Bullina lineata. Both of these species feed on worms.

Image courtesy Isobel Bennett