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mad about eggs!

April 27, 2011

By Marc, Marine Warden

Eager egg hunters gathered on the slipway outside of the Fine Foundation Marine Centre on another glorious sunny day; some keen to find out what lives inside a ‘mermaids purse’; others keen to find out if we were going to find any eggs of the chocolate variety.      

Everyone was there for the Great Kimmeridge Eggcase Hunt.  I explained that some sharks, skates and rays give birth to their young in eggcases.  When the baby animals have hatched the empty cases get washed up onto the beach.  Ancient mariners didn’t know what these mysterious capsules were, so they came to the only logical conclusion: ‘they must be the discarded purses of mermaids’ – hence their name.

The large eggcase of a Blonde Ray - the long ‘horns’ in the corner anchor the capsule securely in the sand or amongst the seaweed.

The children were finding all of this very fascinating but they suddenly became extra focused when they found out that we were offering chocolate eggs in return for these capsules.  This was now serious – they wanted to know how to find these precious eggcases.  I told them that the best place to find a ‘mermaids purse’ is amongst the seaweed washed up on the beach, or higher up on the shore where they are blown when they dry out.  Armed with this knowledge and their shark, skate and ray eggcase guides our intrepid hunters were now desperate to get going.  I would like to think that this eagerness stemmed from their passion for conservation but I had a sneaky suspicion it may have been something to do with chocolate.   

Chocolate is always a great motivator

Five minutes into the hunt, a little girl approached our new volunteer warden Andy: “Where have you hidden the eggcases, can you tell me where one is so that I can get a chocolate egg”.  Shortly after that Jeff was offered a trade: “Here is half a crab, do I get an egg now?”  Fearing that I hadn’t quite got my message across I began to scour the ground for an eggcase so that I could show everybody how it is done.  

Stinky – hunting through the rotting seaweed. We don’t call this ‘stink corner’ for nothing

Before I could get my eye in though our first eggcase was found – a Spotted Ray!  This beautiful animal is one of the smaller rays we have in the UK, reaching about 80 cm in length.  This is the most commonly found eggcase at Kimmeridge – so there may be a nursery near by!  

At last – we have an eggcase

This find spurred a flurry of activity as our first chocolate egg was handed out.  Everybody soon got their eye in after this and the eggcases started coming in thick and fast.  Cases from Thornback Rays were found – an animal as prickly as it sounds; a Blonde Ray, one of our medium sized rays which can grow to an impressive 125 cm long.  We also found five eggcases from the Smallspotted Catshark.  This agreeable little shark, which only grows to around 80 cm, is one of the lucky sharks that are still abundant in our waters.  They are named so, because of their yellow or greenish eyes which have a cat-like horizontal slit in them.  

Budding shark, skate and ray conservationists

 

In the end a total of twenty eggcases were found and everybody that took part got a chocolate egg.  A BIG THANKS to everyone that took part!  It was a good day for conservation as all of the data will be sent to the Shark Trust who will use it to try to identify the nursery grounds of these charismatic animals.  The Trust believes that identifying these grounds will help in the conservation of sharks, skates and rays.  So if you find a mermaid’s purses while you are out on the beach or if you would like to find out more about the Great Eggcase Hunt please visit www.eggcase.org .  If you see any eggcases while you are down at Kimmeridge I would love to hear from you.  Pop into the Fine Foundation Marine Centre and show me what you found.    

Cheers

Marc 

I never did get my eye in, but I rewarded myself with a chocolate egg anyway!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Catherine permalink
    May 31, 2011 11:37 am

    Sounds like a great day! We were hunting for eggs at Lorton Meadows as well, plenty of chocolate to go around here too!

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