More intimate sea secrets revealed

After 10 more years of underwater exploration, a new edition of Great British Marine Animals – published this week, 9th June.

Great British Marine Animals lifts the lid on the wonderful diversity of creatures that live in our seas and the colourful and fascinating ways they go about their lives. 

Written by Paul Naylor, discover the undersea world around the UK, full of unexpected drama and intriguing stories, illustrated with his own remarkable photographs.

 Paul says: “You don’t need to visit tropical oceans to be wowed by the beauty and brilliance of marine life, it’s happening right on our doorstep. Among forests of kelp and shallow rocky reefs animals deploy sophisticated techniques to see off predators, raise families and work together.

 “My book is for everyone who wants to enjoy and learn more about our seas and their inhabitants, from crabs to sharks, and sea anemones to octopus. I hope it will encourage people to support better protection for our marine life.  My photos document the complex social lives of creatures, from fish which build nests, to decorator crabs, fighting limpets, and sea anemones which use miniature harpoons to capture prey.

 Since the last edition of the book Paul has carried out ground-breaking research which shows how long some fish can keep their territories; and reveals new aspects of their social lives. 

 Paul says: “Tompot blennies, charismatic small fish, are stars of the new book and show how careful observation over the years can reveal information new to science. Using their unique face markings, I can recognise, and have named dozens of individuals. 

“Males, such as Bradley, hold a territory for over 5 years, whilst ‘young pretender’ Bertram, is a ‘sneaker’; pretending to be a female, he sneaks into Bradley’s residence to fertilise eggs that his rival is conscientiously guarding. Bradley’s been duped. It’s a soap opera! The reef is their ‘home patch’ and I hope that learning more about their lives will encourage better protection for our waters.”

 More of my top weird and wonderful behaviours in the new book are:

  • Spider crabs that painstakingly ‘decorate’ their armour with pieces of seaweed and sponge, attached to their shell with tiny hooks, creating elaborate camouflage.
  • Sea slugs with a myriad of defences against predators; the sea hare squirts crabs with purple slime; the grey sea slug digests stinging cells from large sea anemones anduses them for defence against fish attack.
  • Wrasse, several species of colourful fish that build unusual and complex nests out of seaweed, work as parasite cleaners, and even help each other to find food.
  • Cuttlefish that are lightning-fast hunters, cruising across seagrass meadows, using mesmerizing colour changes for camouflage, to distract prey, send signals to potential mates and warn off attackers.

  Joan Edwards, Director of Marine Policy, The Wildlife Trusts, who writes a foreword for the book says: 

 “From campaigning for at least 30% of our protected areas at sea to be designated as Highly Protected Marine Areas, to engaging with the public, in tackling both the climate and ecological crises in tandem, The Wildlife Trusts have a vision for seas full of fish and wildlife, with a society that takes pride in conserving one of our nations’ greatest assets. Paul’s photos are an essential snapshot into a marine world that we need to protect.”

 Sandy Luk, CEO, Marine Conservation Society writes in her foreword:

“Paul has long been at the forefront of increasing the knowledge base and value for our seas, is a long-standing supporter of the Marine Conservation Society and a great advocate for UK seas and our work.  We desperately need the current and next generation to feel inspired to continue our fight to save our seas, and Paul’s work is a large part of that”.