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Going rockpooling is a great way to see a wide range of organisms that live on the seashore. Our guide gives you tips on the equipment you need and shows you what you might find.
Choose your beach - the best beaches for pools have sheltered rocky shores. (The Wildlife Trust has a selection of good locations around the UK.)
Check tide times. The rock pools exposed at low tides have a wider variety of organisms living in them. But watch out for when the tide turns and don't get cut off. (The BBC has a tide table for the UK.)
The rock pools uncovered at low tides will have the widest variety of inhabitants. Spring tides, around the time of a full and new Moon, are the strongest and will go out the furthest. But watch out for the tide turning and don't get caught out!
Rock pools may look serene to human observers, but they can be tough environments for plants and animals to live in. Twice a day the sea washes over them and then retreats, resulting in fierce competition for resources in cramped living conditions. Inhabitants have to cope with changes in temperature, oxygen levels, moisture and salinity.
Here are some common organisms that you might find in your exploration:
This crab is often greenish in colour, but it can be orange or red. It has a broad shell that is up to about nine centimetres across. The shell has five spikes on either side of the eyes, and three rounded lobes between the eyes. They eat a wide variety of food, including shellfish, seaweed, and dead animals and plants.
This marine mollusc has a greyish conical shell with ridges running from the centre and grows to about six centimetres long. When the tide is in, limpets wander over the surface of the rock, grazing on algae. When the tide goes out, they return to their base and hunker down to retain water. They hold on so hard that over time they make an impression in the rock, called a home scar.
This seaweed is olive-brown with branching fronds that have a rib running down the middle of them and round air bladders. The bladders help the seaweed to float upright when the tide comes in, giving their fronds maximum exposure to sunlight and water for photosynthesis.
Why not take part in our Big Seaweed Search while you are down on the seashore?
This five-armed starfish is usually orange in colour but can be brown or violet. It is covered in small white spines. The animals are normally 10 to 30 centimetres in diameter but can grow larger. Starfish feed on a variety of animals including molluscs. They use their strong arms to prise open shells then invert their stomachs into the opening and digest the meal outside of their bodies.
This anemone is about five centimetres in diameter and usually red in colour, although it can be green or brown. Out of the water it looks like a blob of red jelly stuck to the rock. When in water, and undisturbed, it unfurls dozens of short tentacles. It uses the stinging tentacles to catch prey and to fight neighbouring anemones.
This fish grows to about 16 centimetres in length and has an elongated body and a blunt head. It is mottled in colour - brownish with darker patches. They shelter in rock pools at low tide and then roam across the shore as the tide rises.
... or that it helped you learn something new. Now we're wondering if you can help us.
Every year, more people are reading our articles to learn about the challenges facing the natural world. Our future depends on nature, but we are not doing enough to protect our life support system.
British wildlife is under threat. The animals and plants that make our island unique are facing a fight to survive. Hedgehog habitats are disappearing, porpoises are choking on plastic and ancient woodlands are being paved over.
But if we don't look after nature, nature can't look after us. We must act on scientific evidence, we must act together, and we must act now.
Despite the mounting pressures, hope is not lost. Museum scientists are working hard to understand and fight against the threats facing British wildlife.
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To reverse the damage we've done and protect the future, we need the knowledge that comes from scientific discovery. Understanding and protecting life on our planet is the greatest scientific challenge of our age. And you can help.
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