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Page last updated at 11:31 GMT, Thursday, 24 December 2009
Storms wash up unusual sea life
'Pyjama barnacle’, by Steve Trewhella, Dorset Wildlife Trust
Goose barnacle crustaceans have been seen on Dorset's shores

Unusual creatures rare to Dorset have been appearing on our beaches after storms and strong south-westerly winds.

Dorset Wildlife Trust has reported sightings of, among others, a tropical Columbus crab and goose barnacles.

The crustaceans are one of six types seen in Dorset this month, including a Conchoderma virgatum, which DWT staff named 'pyjama barnacle' because of its striped appearance.

There have also been sightings of birds blown off course, both alive and dead.

Puffins and petrels, normally far out to sea, have been washed up dead onto the Dorset coast, after being unable to feed due to rough weather conditions.

Another bird spotted was a grey phalarope - a wading bird on its way from its Arctic breeding grounds to the warmer southern oceans, but blown off course by strong winds.

Columbus crab, by Steve Trewhella, Dorset Wildlife Trust
The Columbus crab was discovered at Ringstead Bay near Weymouth

Crabs

And a Columbus crab, named after explorer Christopher Columbus and originally from the Sargasso Sea near Florida, was found by local marine expert Lin Baldock at Ringstead Bay, near Weymouth.

Dorset Wildlife Trust said it is only the second time in 100 years that this breed of crab has been found in Dorset.

The previous time was in 2006 when around 30 of the crabs were washed up at Southbourne beach, after similar stormy conditions.

They had drifted all the way across the Atlantic ocean by hiding in a cluster of goose barnacles attached to a fishing buoy.

The crabs can be found on drifting objects such as seaweed which can easily be swept up by the gulf stream and carried thousands of miles to British shores.

The Trust's marine office Julie Hatcher said: "These animals normally spend their lives in warmer waters, drifting around the oceans of the world, hitching a lift on floating debris like mats of seaweed, bird feathers or plastic bottles."

Exploring the coast

These unexpected sightings make it a good time to get out and explore Dorset's coastline.

She said: "After such a stormy period, you never know what you might find."

Julie suggests taking a camera out onto the beach.

She said: "You could spot something that's never been seen in Dorset before."

"If you see anything on Dorset's beaches which you think may be an unusual creature, take a picture and send it to us.

"The more we know about what's out there, the better we will be able to protect it."

Email your marine wildlife photos to kimmeridge@dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk




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