How to identify rockpool wildlife

12 species for you to look for on your next rockpooling adventure. The pools richest in wildlife tend to be nearest the low-tide mark. 

Long spined sea scorpion

                                                                            Illustrations by Dan Cole/The Art Agency          


1 Long-spined sea scorpion (above) Taurulus bubalis

Body length: up to 18cm. ‘Bug’ eyes, a large, toad-like head and spiny gill covers. Often hides among seaweed.



2 Shanny Lipophrys pholis

Also called common blenny. Body length: up to 16cm. Blunt head and a long dorsal fin. Hides in crevices.



3 Common prawn Palaemon serratus

Body length: up to 11cm. Transparent body with fine brown markings. Darts into crevices and seaweed.



4 Shore crab Carcinus maenas

Shell diameter: up to 8cm. The shell has five ‘teeth’ on each side below the eye. Colour variable, but mostly green.



5 Common hermit crab Pagurus bernhardus

Body length: up to 3cm. Lives inside empty spiral shells, from winkles to whelks; the crab itself is red-orange.



6 Common starfish Asterias rubens

Legspan: up to 30cm, but rockpool specimens are usually smaller. Five limbs are orange with paler stipples.



7 Beadlet anemone Actinia equina

Tentacle length: up to 7cm. Red, brown or green. Tentacles retract into body when exposed at low tide.



8 Snakelocks anemone Anemone viridis

Tentacle length: up to 18cm. Long green tentacles that seldom retract. In lower pools that never dry out.



9 Common limpet Patella vulgata

Shell diameter: up to 6cm. Attaches firmly to rocks, creating ‘home scars’. Leaves at high tide to graze algae.



10 Dog whelk Nucella lapillus

Shell height: up to 4cm. Has a thick rim to the shell mouth. Carnivorous, boring into mussels and barnacles.



11 Grey top shell Gibbula cineraria

Shell height: up to 1.5cm. Greyish, conical shell with fine reddish or purple markings. In lower pools.



12 Common mussel Mytilus edulis

Shell length: up to 10cm. Flattened, oval, bluish-black shell. Lives in tightly clustered colonies on rocks.


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