Records of more rare, beautiful and interesting species of the HVMCA

During August 2006, I visited Gillan Creek in search of hemipteran bugs. The creek has extensive stands of sloe (blackthorn) and ivy overhanging the waters edge. The purity of the air and the high humidity in this, and other areas of the Lizard Peninsula, ensures that most of the sloe bushes are richly clad with many different lichens. Gentle beating of these bushes, especially those with Usnea species of lichen, and capturing the falling debris in a net, yielded several small (approx. 3mm) lacebugs.

Examination of these bugs using a 10x-20x magnification binocular microscope reveals their true and amazing beauty. The intricate lace-like reticulations of the pronotum and forewings gives rise to their vernacular name of “lacebugs”. The species here on sloe isPhysetocheila dumetorum.

Further searching of the nearby ivy overhang, revealed another species, even rarer and more beautiful, the ivy lacebug Derephysia foliacea.

Earlier in August down on the muddy sand of the creek where the channel narrows, I had been searching for the obscure sipunculidworm Golfingia vulgaris when I noticed a minute (2mm) bivalve mollusc living in some of the worm tubes. This was Mysella bidentata, the two-toothed Montague shell which lives in a commensulate (= “eating at the same table”) relationship with Golfingia.

Further down the creek, towards the open sea and in cleanish sand, is a large population of the Potato sea urchin Echinocardium cordatum. When these are carefully excavated another slightly larger commensulate mollusc (6-8mm) is often revealed Tellimya ferruginosa(= reddish-brown) attached to the underside spines.

Finally in mid-August Chris and Dillan Bean contacted me regarding an unusual fish caught in nets just off Nare Point. Unfortunately the 32cm fish was member of the Amberjack family. I say unfortunately because the four species of this family found off our coasts are very similar and difficult to identify. After numerous precise measurements were made the fish was identified as the Greater amberjack Seriola dumerili, only the third authenticated record for British waters.

As I write it has come to my notice that during the dying days of August vast numbers of young Black bream Spondylissima cantharus have been seen in the Helford River – as one harassed fisherman said, “in plague proportions” . Again this highlights the importance of the HVMCA as a nursery for fish species many of which are of commercial importance. Incidentally the Black bream is known colloquially as the “Old Wife”, does anyone know why?

Dr Paul A Gainey

Extract from HVMCA newsletter No.33 Autumn 2006

© Helford Voluntary Marine Conservation Area