Lyme Bay extends for 65 kilometres from Exmouth in East Devon to Portland in West Dorset. In Lyme Bay the cold water from the North meets the warmer water from the South. This results in cold and warm water species living in Lyme Bay. The reef habitat of Lyme Bay is home to a rich diversity of marine life. There are over 300 hundred plants and animals including rare and protected species and seven species of coral. The reefs in Lyme Bay also host valuable seafood species such as crab and scallop.
Click on the thumbnail photos below to find out more about the life in Lyme Bay...
Latin name - Eunicella verrucosa Size - usually up to 25cm, can be up to 50cm Habitat - attached to rock, usually below 15m
The Pink Sea Fan is a coral and can be found off the coast of Lyme Regis. It is a nationally protected species due to its dwindling population and is a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, which aims to maintain the abundance and distribution of this coral. Sea fans are long-lived and slow growing and their numbers are strongly affected if they are removed or damaged by human activities. Trawling for fish and scallops by fishermen has been shown to be putting these animals at risk.
Latin name - Leptopsammia pruvoti Size - up to 3cm in diameter Habitat - attached to shady rock faces below the low water mark
This slow growing solitary coral is highly vulnerable to disturbances. It is long-living but reproduces very infrequently and is extremely rare. Sunset coral has only been found in four locations around the South-West coast of Britain. It is a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan which aims to maintain the current population of this coral.
Latin name - Corynactis viridis Size – up to 1.5 cm tall Habitat – on shaded rocks from the lower shore down to 80m
These beautifully coloured anemones live on the South and West coasts of Britain and reach as far North as the Shetlands. They can be green, pink, red, orange or white in various combinations. They are often found in dense patches particularly on vertical rock faces.
Light bulb sea squirts
Latin name - Clavelina lepadiformis Size – up to 2cm tall Habitat – Attached to rocks, stones and seaweed to depths of about 50m
Light bulb sea squirts are transparent-looking creatures with white lines which make them look like an electric filament light bulb. They are filter feeders sucking in water and filtering out microscopic particles.
Latin name - Balistes capriscus Size – up to 40cm long Habitat – depths of 10-100m
The Atlantic Triggerfish is a visitor to British waters from warmer Southern seas. During the summer divers can see these Triggerfish around wrecks in Lyme Bay. When hiding in crevices they hold their position using the first spine on their dorsal fin locking it in place with the second spine. The second spine also acts as a trigger to unlock the first spine and hence the name Triggerfish.
Latin name - Sepia officinalis Size – up to 45cm long Habitat – depths of up to 200m
Cuttlefish are related to the octopus and squid that live in our seas today and also to the extinct ammonites and belemnites of the past. The cuttlefish bone which can be commonly found on the beach is the animal’s internal skeleton and aids buoyancy. The cuttlefish itself is found in deeper water and is a perfect predator using its excellent vision and suckered tentacles to catch its prey. Its diet consists of animals like crabs, prawns and fish.
Latin name – Pecten maximus Size – up to 15cm long Habitat – clean sand and fine or sandy gravel
Scallops have numerous eyes and sensory tentacles which enables them to detect predators. They have the ability to ‘swim’ away from predators using jets of water to propel themselves. These scallops are commercially valuable and are targeted by fisherman. Dredging for scallops is very damaging to the seabed and is now banned from a small area of Lyme Bay. Diving for scallops is still permitted in the area.