Thousands of starfish were stranded by high tides and stormy seas one August at Rhossili Bay on the Gower Peninsula. These voiolent natural events happen from time to time in the ecology of the seashore. Although it is sad to see so many marine and seashore creatures perishing at once, it is all part of the bigger picture. These animals become part of the food chain for other creatures – the more obvious larger ones like crabs and birds and the smaller invertebrates like the sandhoppers.
These Common Starfish, Asterias rubens Linnaeus, on the sandy shore formed a virtual carpet of orange, pink, red, purple and every colour in between. Star shapes and contorted versions of them. Rough spikey textures on vividly coloured upper surfaces; and soft radiating rows of tube feet on paler lower surfaces. Spread across a wide strandline in an almost continuous mosaic pattern – interspersed with razor and other seashells and empty tests of sea urchins. The occasional crab feasting on the remains; raucous groups of big seabirds picking over the remains.
Revision of a post first published 2 October 2009
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4 Replies to “Stranded starfish at Rhossili Bay”
Oh Jessica… how both amazing and tragic these images are. This looks like the same type of starfish we have here in Nova Scotia. I can’t imagine seeing so many of them in one place at once.
You are right. This carpet of starfishes is remarkable in many ways but is not a unique type of event in this location. I have series of pictures for other seashore creatures in similar circumstances. I have been trying to understand how the sea currents, tides and drifts in Rhossili Bay contribute to these mass strandings.
I saw loads stranding in March 2008 at Rhosilli as it was the same time those drip bags were washing up there.
I think these photographs of stranded starfish were taken in August 2008. Seems like mass strandings of starfish are a fairly frequent occurrence if you also saw some there in March the same year.
I’ve just returned from a visit to the Pacific North-West coast of America in Oregon where I was fortunate enough to see some of their huge starfish Pisaster ochraceus which can grow up to 14 inches across) feeding voraciously on the giant California Mussels at the low tide mark. They were fantastic – and, like our own common starfish, show a wide range of colours from orange to purple. I’ll soon be writing new articles for the blog again and will post some of the photographs I took while I was there.