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?
Revision of a post first published 13 February 2010
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