Coast & Sea Areas

Wild Harris

Types of Sea Shore

Sea shores are either hard, made up of bedrock or boulders, or soft, made up of sand or mud. Each kind of shore has its advantages and disadvantages for marine life, and the animals and plants that live in each habitat type will often have special adaptations to living there.

Rocky Shore

rocky shore.jpg (Photo: Paul Tyler)

Rocky shores are covered in life. This is surprising in a way because its a very harsh environment to cope with. If you live here you have to put up with:

  • Getting wet and drying out twice a day
  • Getting battered by waves 
  • Getting rained on (organisms that live in salt water often find it very difficult to survive in fresh water)
  • Freezing in the winter and getting scorched in the summer


So why is it so popular?

For plants it offers a hard surface to grow on and plenty of light. For some animals like barnacles the hard surface is good place to attach, and for others the weeds provide great shelter and food for them. Other animals such as dogwhelks feed on the smaller animals such as barnacles.

There is more food such as plankton in surface waters than there is at depth, and the waves stir up even more.

So if you can stand the pressures, the rewards of living on a rocky shore are considerable.

Shingle shores

Shingle shores are very violent places where everything is churned up by the waves and severely battered by large stones or pebbles. Very little life is capable of living under these conditions.

 shingle beach.jpg(Photo: Paul Tyler)

A shingle beach on the Shiants. Hardly anything can survive the pulverising effect of the stones.

Sandy Shores

The kinds of life found in sandy shores depends on how strong the wave action can be. Animals that live here are usually good at burrowing down into the sand to escape the wave action and to avoid drying out when the tide recedes. Razor clams and surf clams thrive in exposed sandy beaches such as Scarista and Scarp, whereas more sheltered sandy shores like Luskentyre or Northton will support large numbers of lugworms and cockles instead.

 seilebost beach.jpg(Photo: Paul Tyler)

Muddy Shores

Muddy shores are usually found in very sheltered areas where the wave action is fairly gentle. Mud itself often contains large amounts of organic matter which is a source of food for burrowing animals, particularly worms. It is also easy to dig into, and is therefore often home to vast numbers of worms and shellfish, particularly bivalves (molluscs with 2 shells). These in turn provide rich feeding grounds for shore birds, especially waders such as oystercatchers and curlews which probe the sediment for buried animals.

muddy beach northton.jpg(Photo: Paul Tyler)


by Paul Tyler

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