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Fascinating environment
The beach is alive!

The beach is alive!

Life on the beach

We have often seen the beauty of life at the sea bed.  Corals, colorful and diverse schools of fish, crabs, turtles and all those that make it heavenly beautiful. Yet, how many of us can really reach there? Swim, dive or snorkel to witness it with our own eyes?

In contrast, how many of us have been to beach? Amongst, how many of us have actually “seen” the life on beach? I wonder. Did you know, the beach that we lie on to take a sun bath, build a sand castle, bath, walk, sit down and have a gossip, is a home for hundreds of other organisms too?

Different beaches

There are different types of beaches. Namely;

  • Muddy beaches
  • Sandy beaches and
  • Rocky beaches.

Muddy beaches are (in simple words) where you see mangroves grow. Soil is muddy and have unique creatures that living in them.

Sandy beaches are where you see sand but nothing! May be a rock then and there. But the most amazing thing about these beaches is its color. Some are brown, some are red, some are pitch black, green, white… all related to the type of minerals it is composed with. Sandy beaches on the other hand are the home to sand dwellers, shy and scared animals that lives beneath the sand. You may have even seen few of them. “Ghost crabs” that have extruded eyes like spy cameras and hide in the sand just as they sense you. Even snails that quickly hide in the sand just as a high wave rolls back to the sea removing the sand cover above them (they are so quick! I could never catch any).

Rocky beaches are those with big and small rocks, boulders or rock beds in the coastal area.  They, in a way, are the “coral beds on beach” that shelter the highest animal diversity on shores. In a bed of algae on a rock, there are number of different animals.


These are the type of plants grow in marine waters. There are three types, to be little scientific this variation is related to the photosynthetic pigment of these plants.

  • Green algae (green in colour)
  • Red algae (red in colour)
  • Brown algae (brown in colour)

Green and red algae are often consumed by human too.

Snails (Molluscs)

Snails are the most famous type of life on a beach. Anyone likes to collect shells from the beach as souvenirs. Their colors and shapes are so charming. These snails we find on beach belongs to different groups (Classes).

  • Gastropoda- snails with a single shell.
  • Bivalvia- snails with double shells.
  • Polyplacophora- shell divided into 8 plates.
  • Scaphopoda- composed of a tube like shell open at both ends.
  • Cephalopoda- have “arms on the head”. Have an eye equivalent to human.

It’s such an enjoyment to look at these guys closely.

Limpet (Cellana sp.)

If you watch closely, you will see a small dip in the stone where they stay attached. Usually stay attached with its “foot”, letting water pass around its shell. But, if you try to touch it, immediately attach firmly to the rock closing the shell tightly on the rock.

Source: http://z14.invisionfree.com/Conchologist_Forum/ar/t2268.htm
Top snail (Trochus sp.)

The name comes from its shape actually. This guy even has a “door” to its shell house which is called the “Operculum”, a button like structure that secure its body inside the shell. There are operculums of different shapes, colours and chemicals. An expert would say to which animal it belongs just looking at the operculum

  Zebra periwinkle (Littorina zigzac)

Another habitant on rocks. Enjoys the covered side of the rock or rather away from the high wave action.

  Olive snail (Oliva sp.)

This snail is a “fashion model” who maintains its shell clean and shiny. Lives in sand. Often you may see them quickly burrowing into the sand after a wave wash back.

Source: http://www.shellmuseum.org/shells/southwest-florida-shells/stramonita-floridana
Rock snail (Thais sp.)

Just as the name implies, they are found attached to rocks. They too have an operculum.

  Nerites (Nerita sp.)

There are colourful species of this kind. Even they have an operculum

  Oyster shells (Cassostrea sp. And Saccostrea sp.)

This guy is firm on its ideas. Once it decides where he wants to grow up, he cements himself there! Also its two shells are different in size, “big house with a small roof”.

  Sunetta sp.

I could not find the common name that refer these guys. The most fascinating thing about them is that the patterns on its shell, resembles the patterns left on the sandy beaches after a wave wash back! Try observing yourself.

Source: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124319594
Mussel snail (Mytilus sp.)

Lives on rocks. To attach there, it secretes threads like structures called “byssus threads”.

Polyplacophora Cephalopoda Scaphopoda
   Sources: http://www.conchasbrasil.org.br/materias/

cephalopoda/colecao/default.asp and https://www.naturamediterraneo.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=5544

Chiton (Chiton Sp.)

This snail reminds an armored soldier of kings’ era.  It attaches to the rock so tightly that if you try to pull it, shell would come but not the animal.

Spiral shape shell belonging to Common spiral (Spirula spirula) that lives in the deep ocean. This shell is light in weight and helps the animal to float upright, near the water surface. In other words, they can hang like a bat in water surface! Tusk snail (Dentalium sp.)

Lives in sand of the sea floor. The shape resembles an Elephant tusk which gives its name.

Sea anemones

Very famous as poisonous predators that grab and eat fish with their tentacles. But there is a special fish who live in symbiosis with it. Remember Nemo? That’s it, they are referred as anemone fish. But that’s deep sea. Can we see them on beach?? Actually, yes. Small sea anemones can be seen in small dips in rocks where water is collected and retained. You can even touch them and lose your finger.. ha ha.. just a joke… they are really harmless and you would feel like touching an adhesive tape.

Hermit crabs

They are a type of crabs without a hard shell. Therefore, they have to depend on a shell to protect their soft body. Often they borrow shells of gastropods and sometimes one shell of bivalves. They have to change their shell as they grow up. Also when they hang around in water, other species such as barnacles gets attached and calcium gets deposited making the shell heavy to carry. So often they compete among their own species for shells. Sometimes they wait where a star fish eats a gastropod to grab the discarded shell!!!


Remember the famous Captain Haddok in the stories of “Tin Tin”? “Billions of blue blistering barnacles”!.  Well, you can see them on rocks of the beach. They too attach firmly on the surface by cementing themselves. This is one of the reasons that ship captains don’t like them…

Sea urchin

The “porcupine of the sea”. These can be seen where water is collected among rocks that often referred as “tidal pools”. Spines are poisonous.  The fascinating thing about this guy is the “Aristotle’s lantern” which is actually its tooth used in eating.

Rock crabs

These crabs have a flat body allowing them to sneak through small spaces among rocks. There are hundreds of them among rocks.

Sand hopper

This is a shrimp-like creature that are found on sandy beaches where the wave breaks. Some fishermen use them as fish baits.

Some species of Jelly fish

Jelly fish

They are famous for their venom. colorful free floaters that you should never try to touch. Records says that even dead fish can be poisonous if touched.

There are thousands of other things you can find on a beach. Shells and structures belonging to other magnificent sea creatures.

Operculums of different marine snail species.

Operculums – These button like structures are actually the “doors” of the houses that once belonged to sea snails.

Some are made of calcium where as some are protein structures.

Corals – Often dead coral pieces that are bleached are found on the beach. Although they don’t contain polyp that makes them alive, one can still use them to learn the shapes and types of corals.

Cuttlebone – This is the internal shell

Cuttle bone

in cuttle fish that belongs to the class cephalapoda. Often used as a calcium source for birds. So, one may see cuttlebones in bird cages of the zoo than on a beach!

Even this isn’t all. Almost every type of shells belonging to dead snails, pieces of dead corals and structures belonging to other marine creatures are found on the beach. Even certain fish species that gets trapped in tidal pools can often be seen.  If you just stop to admire it a bit you’ll definitely be amazed of this ecosystem.

Sources of photographs:

Hermit crab: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/everything-you-know-about-hermit-crabs-is-wrong

Sea urchin: http://thefunbank.blogspot.com/2015/06/sea-urchin-photos-wallpapers.html

Aristotal’s lantern: http://www.pinsdaddy.com/aristotles-lantern-sea-star-urchin-feeding-nutrition-amp-amp-test_nus4ta67P1C3AQvNbbAhaNKviDPq*8%7C24WoGzECLpMcH9t*YefB6jqBFAfjOQu*CMLgG12GTCNT6Xc3utEyTRRmZqEEFtAXgcuYQki428ub2X*ch5tZvax0CVLJF9g2J/wx8AfMnzILbU5ZdoqHHiB9s8AZz9E5EhdDlRGL%7ChytNy8Pv2qQgh4RWbkd2Mvkiq5MbXjSS1k5cEeLeNnDNY7vWem4Ev6CZdfBl78DlCnhD9WFcxtaZ95Z8c4p8PHfxV/

Rock crabs: http://www.bdavidcathell.com/LAHP/Archives/2012/LAHP_120220/Life_After_HP_120220.htm

Sand hopper: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sand_Hopper_(Bellorchestia_Quoyana).JPG

Sea anemone on beach;

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