Category Europe – sub-polar

Dead man’s fingers

Alcyonium digitatum

Dead mans fingers (Alcyonium digitatum) are colony building soft corals that are classified asOctocorallia, a group which also includes sea pens and sea fans. This group of corals is characterized by the eight tentacles clustered around the mouth of each polyp in the colony.

The tentacles sit in a circle around the edge and have small branches. Corals in the family Alcyonaria have a horny or leather-like skeleton supported by calcareous pins.

Colonies consist of small coral polyps and are white or orange in colour, but may appear reddish or brownish during periods of inactivity when the individual polyps are withdrawn into the colony...

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King scallops and queenies

Pecten maximus and Chlamys islandica

Scallops are bivalve molluscs with scalloped, fan-shaped shells (valves) whose shape and colour have inspired artists architects and designers for centuries.

The shells are further characterized by radiating ribs or grooves and concentric growth rings. Near the hinge, where the two valves (shells) meet, the shell flares out on each side to form small “wings”. Just inside each valve along the edge of the mantle there a row of short sensory tentacles and a row of small blue eyes.

A single adductor muscle, sometimes called the ’eye’ in culinary circles, opens and closes the two valves. Because they are active swimmers, the adductor muscle is more developed in the scallop than in oysters and clams...

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Edible crab

Cancer pagurus

The common edible crab (Cancer pagurus) leads a benthic (bottom dwelling) existence living on a wide range rocky substrates, bottoms of sand or gravel and at depths from 6 to100 metres, although between 6 and 30 metres is more typical. The species is distributed from northern Morocco to northern Norway at latitude 70 degrees. It has a heavy, broadly oval shaped body, which is rather convex with very faint grooves. The edible crab is readily distinguished from

other species by the round lobes at the front of the carapace giving a ‘piecrust’ effect and the presence of massive black tipped chelae (pincers). The pincers are smooth and slightly unequal in shape. The last four pairs of legs are roughened by numerous groups of very short stiff black hairs...

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Red king crab

Paralithodes camtschatika

Originating from the Sea of Okhotsk in the Camchatca region of eastern Russia, the red king crab (Paralithodes camtschatica) was introduced to parts of the Russian waters of the Barents Sea in the 1960’s. In the mid 1970’s, individual specimens started to appear as bycatch on both sides of the shared Russian/Norwegian border. Since that time, bycatch numbers have increased significantly in the region.

The king crab is a valuable food source and is the most commercially important of all crabs. Whilst a number of studies have examined the optimum harvesting strategies for the species in the region, very little has been done to understand the potential ecological impact that the species will have in non-native waters.

The crab’s diet appears to include a wi...

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Homarus gammarus

Lobsters, like shrimps and crabs, are decapods – literally meaning 10 legs – and can be found in all of the world’s tropical and sub-tropical seas as well as more temperate waters. They are predatory, nocturnal animals with a vividly decorated coat. They are often numerous locally; they linger in crevices (with their long antennae sticking out) during the day and hunt small benthic organisms at night, but they also feed on organic detritus whenever they happen across it. As with all crustaceans, the lobster moults or sheds its shell to grow.

Up until the end of the 19th century lobster was so plentiful that it was often used as fish bait. Sadly, with lobster’s ever-increasing popularity those days are now gone forever...

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