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The Worm City of Filey Bay

by RB

Sand Mason Worms (Lanice conchilega)

Sand Mason Worms (Lanice conchilega) in Filey Bay

A multitude of sand mason worms (Lanice conchilega) carpet large parts of Filey Bay and some can be seen at low tides . The tubes are about 4 to 5cm in height, made up of coarse sand grains and any bits of hard material that is available. The worm that made them can be as long as 30cm and lives below in a burrow. As the tide comes in it will come out to feed, using a mass of tentacles to entrap bits of food including small animals and waste material.

These colonies of sand mason worms have a vital role to play in keeping the beach clean. They are an important food source for the baby plaice that live in Filey Bay. The plaice, which are about the size of postage stamps, browse the tentacles of the sand mason worm, which will regrow.

The author was once involved in a ‘clean the beaches’ campaign when the campaigners were approached by a firm specialising in beach cleaning machinery. They were very proud of their new model which would strip the sand to a considerable depth, filter it, clean it of all organic material and then disinfect it before it was spewed out at the rear of the machine. The sand mason worm, along with a multitude of other small creatures living in the sand, doesn’t need such ‘help’ and makes a  pretty good job of mopping up. They also offer a ‘fast food’ service to our local fish.

Body of Sand Mason Worm Author - Matthias Buschmann (User:M.Buschmann) Wikipedia commons

Body of Sand Mason Worm Author - Matthias Buschmann (User:M.Buschmann) Wikipedia commons

The beautiful Lions Mane Jellyfish (Cyanea capillata) is an occasional visitor to Filey Bay between June and September. Most of our other visiting jellyfish don’t sting. This One does and has white thread like stinging tentacles that stretch our a few metres from the main animal. The main body can be about 50cm across but can grow to more than a metre. Sometimes Lion’s manes are washed up on the shore and look like a translucent balloon with reddish brown tentacles attached. If you see one, don’t touch.

In the very unlikely event that you are stung a good remedy is to immerse the affected part in water which is as hot as you can stand. This coagulates the stingers and prevents them from working.  Some other remedies such as vinegar can make things worse. Each sting is like a little harpoon in it’s own box and irritants trigger them even more.

Despite their downsides these animals are magnificent , just remember not to go near the tentacles.

Discover Filey takes no responsibility for the advice given about treating stings, although in our experience it works. If you are stung please seek qualified medical advice from a first aider or doctor. The effect of a sting is similar to that of a nettle sting, but large areas of stings on the body can be dangerous and rarely there can be a really bad reaction to them if you have an allergy or are particularly sensitive.

Lions Mane Jellyfish – Not Cuddly Don’t Touch

by RB

Discovering Plankton – Making a simple net

by RB


Using a Stereo Microscope

Our seas are alive with a multitude of small creatures that are carried around by the tide. Some live in the water column all the time, others are the child stages (larvae) of animals such as starfish, barnacles, crabs and lobsters. The Discover Filey Group has developed plans for a Discover Plankton, plankton net in the time honoured tradition of the TV series ‘Blue Peter’. It may look a little scrappy, but we have tried it and it works.

This is very much a ‘mark 1′ version and we would very much welcome photographs of a tidied up mark 2 version. The only item that is not readily available is the 70ml sample container. This could easily be replaced with any small plastic container of similar size.

Your catch will probably consist of a few little animals slightly smaller than a pnhead, although you may catch prawns or baby plaice in June and July. The plaice, known locally as postage stamps, because of their size, should be returned to the sea.

Microscopy, the study of the microscopic world is a great hobby for both children and adults. Specimens can be examined with strong hand lenses (x10 to x20) but a better choice is a proper field microscope (£50 upwards) or even better a stereo microscope. A good range of equipment can be found at the One Stop Nature Shop Site. The Discover Filey Project has no commercial links with the One Stop Nature Shop.