Glimpse into marine private lives

Tuesday 15th March 2011

New book helps raise awareness of UK’s Living Seas

Marine misbehaviour is the order of the day in Paul Naylor’s new book, Great British Marine Animals (third edition). Wrangling limpets, aggressive gobies, toxic sea slugs, deceptive cuttlefish and free-loading worms and crabs have all been caught in the act by the marine photographer.

Great British Marine Animals is for anyone who loves the sea, wildlife or exploring our coast. The book unveils fresh aspects of the fascinating behaviour of common animals, and helps identify a wider range of species. More than 240 of the 600 photographs are new.

Paul Naylor is a real champion of the conservation cause. This book reflects the sheer wonder of the life on our shores and in our seas

Examples of unusual behaviour witnessed in the wild, and captured on camera, by Paul for Great British Marine Animals, include:

• Mesmerising meals: Cuttlefish can flash up different patterns on their bodies to distract their prey as they grab it. In one location, where there were 20 hunting, they got so used to Paul and his camera they performed this trickery right in front of him.
• Ganging up on the enemy: Paul documents previously unrecorded behaviour by gobies (small fish): harassing a predatory sea anemone by biting its tentacles and flicking sand over it, until it closes up and presents less of a threat.
• Get off my patch! Limpets are herbivorous but not always peaceful grazers; they can sometimes be found ramming or prising a competitor from their territory. Paul even found a pair continuing to battle at low tide, when they would usually be clamped tight to a rock.
• Chemical deterrent in action: Sea slugs have to rely on chemical deterrents for defence as they have no other protection, but it is rare to see the system in action. Paul captured a goby nibbling a colourful sea slug then quickly spitting it out. The goby would have eaten a prawn, equivalent in size, in one gulp.

Through revealing these and many other intriguing habits, and documenting a wide range of species known to our seas, Paul hopes his book will help raise awareness of the wonder of underwater life, and encourage support for organisations involved in marine conservation, such as The Wildlife Trusts and the Marine Conservation Society.

Great British Marine Animals (third edition), will launch at The Wildlife Trusts’ Living Seas conference from Tues 15 – Wed 16 March, where staff from across The Wildlife Trusts movement will gather in Birmingham to discuss how to secure a healthy future for the UK’s seas.

Paul said: “Through the efforts of organisations such as The Wildlife Trusts and the Marine Conservation Society, awareness of the marine wonders around our shores is growing. However, many still regard our seas as ‘grey and uninteresting’, which could reinforce an attitude of indifference to how we treat them.

“It is vital for those who are passionate about our marine life to continue to spread the word, and I would very much like to believe this book can help in some way. Important progress is being made in marine conservation but there is still much more to do. Organisations which raise awareness of the marine environment and take action to protect it need our support.”

Joan Edwards, Head of Living Seas for The Wildlife Trusts, said: “The seas around the UK have the potential to be among the most productive and wildlife-rich on Earth – yet all too often this diverse and beautiful world is forgotten. Paul Naylor’s book, with its clear descriptions and breathtaking images, helps us to explore this watery world. Paul introduces many charismatic species found in our seas, from anemones, jellyfish and worms to sea snails, octopus and fish.

“Our seas are suffering, their resources and habitats depleted. The Wildlife Trusts believe we can return them to their former glory, so that they are ‘Living Seas’ once more. Paul’s photography is playing an important part in this process – inspiring us all to get involved in protecting this fragile environment, and to cherish our seas for years to come.”

Sam Fanshawe, Marine Conservation Society Director, said: “Paul Naylor is a real champion of the conservation cause. This book reflects the sheer wonder of the life on our shores and in our seas – life that we must all take action to protect, if future generations are to continue to be amazed by the animals so beautifully described in this guide.”


Story by RSWT