White sea mat on pink seaweed: The Bryozoan sea-mat Electra pilosa on dry Irish Moss or Carragheen seaweed (Chondrus crispus) on the strandline at Eype, Dorset, UK - part of the Jurassic Coast (1)

Seamat-covered Carragheen seaweed at Eype

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White sea mat on pink seaweed: The Bryozoan sea-mat Electra pilosa on dry Irish Moss or Carragheen seaweed (Chondrus crispus) on the strandline at Eype, Dorset, UK - part of the Jurassic Coast (1)

There didn’t seem to be much seaweed washed up on the beach when I visited Eype in the summer – just a narrow band of dried red algae forming a strandline high on the shingle seashore. It was comprised almost entirely of Irish Moss, also called Carragheen (Chondrus crispus Stackhouse). This type is well known for its culinary and medical uses.

Less well known it the common association between Irish Moss and the Seamat called Electra pilosa (Linnaeus). You can see this in the photographs here as a white, lacey layer that decorates the red fronds of the seaweed. Each cell of the ‘lace’ is a small box in which the Bryozoan animal lived. Under a microscope every box can be seen to have a distinctive shape with small projecting spines that is unique to the species. Some of these spines extend into long spikes that are clearly visible even to the naked eye. 

For more information about Bryozoa click here for Sea Mats – what are they?

Seaweed on the strandline: A strandline of dried Irish Moss or Carragheen seaweed covered with seamat on the shingle beach at Eype, Dorset, UK - part of the Jurassic Coast (2)

Electra pilosa on Chondrus crispus:The seamat or Bryozoan colony of Electra pilosa encrusting red Carragheen or Irish Moss seaweed on pebbles at Eype, Dorset, UK - part of the Jurassic Coast (3)

Another example of dry, red, Carragheen seaweed covered with white, lace-like colonial Bryozoan seamat on the strandline at Eype, Dorset, UK - part of the Jurassic Coast (4)

More dried red Irish Moss seaweed covered with white, lace-like colonial Bryozoan seamat on the pebble beach at Eype, Dorset, UK - part of the Jurassic Coast (5)

More dried red Chondrus crispus seaweed coated with white, lacey colonial Electra pilosa seamat on the pebble beach at Eype, Dorset, UK - part of the Jurassic Coast (6)

One more example of dried red Carragheen seaweed encrusted with white, lacey colonial Bryozoan seamat on the shingle seashore at Eype, Dorset, UK - part of the Jurassic Coast (7)

Eype Beach view: The view looking westwards along the shingle beach at Eype, Dorset, UK - part of the Jurassic Coast (8) 

Revision of a post first published 13 February 2010

COPYRIGHT JESSICA WINDER 2011

All Rights Reserved

5 Replies to “Seamat-covered Carragheen seaweed at Eype”

  1. Have never seen seaweed like that… Did the ancient people who lived along this coast eat a lot of seaweed? We try to add wakame and arame and kombu to many of our dishes. This looks like it would be utilized more as a thickener, perhaps.

  2. It is difficult to know the extent to which seaweeds were used as food around the British Isles in the distant past before written records were kept. I don’t think evidence of its exploitation is found in our archaeological record – but I may be mistaken there. You are right: it is used as a thickener in foods. You can find out a bit more about it on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chondrus_crispus.

  3. I really like the images of the Electra pilosa, a beautiful companion to the Irish Moss. The close up gives a good view of the complex surface structure. Lovely.

  4. Thank you, Linda. I was surprised that I managed to get such a detailed view of the Bryozoan out on the beach and without a tripod. They are fantastic looking creatures aren’t they? ….but so difficult a lot of the time to get the identifications correct.

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