Sunset corals (Leptopsammia pruvoti), a little natural history.
Leptopsammia prouviti, growing on undercut limestone ledges, Lyme Bay, Southwest England.
For most, the word coral conjures up images of living reefs surrounded by shoals of colourful fish, in clear, brightly lit tropical waters. Whilst this is the type of environment where the vast majority of coral species are found, it is not the exclusive habitat. That corals are found in the chilly and turbid seas around Britain would probably surprise most of theBritish public. In fact there are five known species of coral found in shallow waters around the UK. The two best known species are the Devonshire cup coral, Caryophyllia smithii, and the sunset coral, Leptopsammia pruvoti. Like all our shallow water corals they are solitary corals (apart from the Weymouth carpet coral, Hoplangia durotrix, which forms small clusters of polyps growing from a basal plate). They don’t form large, colonial skeletons and hence don’t form reefs.The Devonshire cup coral is familiar to many divers and may even be found intertidally in shady overhangs at the very bottom of the tide.
Leptopsammia pruvoti is rather more enigmatic. It is known to occur in only a handful of locations around Southwest Britain (The Scilly Isles, Lundy Island, Plymouth Sound, Lyme Bay and Portland Bill) though it is more widely distributed along the Atlantic coast of southern Europe and in the Mediterranean. Leptopsammia pruvoti belongs to the taxonmic family Dendrophylliidae, a sub-group of corals. An interesting feature of nearly all (around 91%) Dendrophylliidae corals is that they lack symbiotic zooxanthellae (technically speaking they are azooxanthellate). At this point you may be asking ‘so why is that a big deal … and what exactly are symbiotic zooxanthellae anyway?’. A common feature of most reef building corals (hermatypic corals) is the presence of tiny unicellular algae, termed zooxanthellae, living within their tissues. This is a symbiotic relationship; Zooxanthellae gain protection and some nuitrients from the coral whilst the coral gets glucose, glycerol and amino acids from the unicellular algae. One of the key benefits for the coral is that this facilitates the production of large amounts of calcium carbonate, the material from which coral skeletons are formed. Thus the calcuim carbonate based, skeleton-forming process in corals containing zoozanthellae is ‘turbo-charged’; they are able to produce skeletal material at a greater rate and so can grow to form large, colonial skeletons that meld together and form reefs. Azooxanthellate corals do not have this advantage, but their lack of dependence on photosynthesising algae frees them to expand beyond the brightly-lit surface waters. Azooxanthellate corals in the family Dendrophylliidae can be found from a few metres depth down to over two thousand metres. This takes them deep into the aphotic zone, the parts of the ocean completely devoid of light (roughly, below 1000 metres). It also allows them to colonies niches that are out of direct sunlight, such as caves (e.g. the recently discovered coral Leptoseris troglodyta, troglodyte= ‘cave dweller’, found around Indonesia and the Philippines) or the rock overhangs of Lyme Bay.
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A black swan tends her eggs in the nest she has constructed along the banks of the River Exe.
A black swan frantically tries to save her nest and eggs as the river water rises following torrential rains.
The human cost of the wettest summer in 100 years, lost income and damaged property, has been highin the Southwest. The cost to wildlife has also been high. The mute swans that gather on the River Exe in the centre of Exeter have failed to raise a single clutch this year. At the end of September, an Austalian Black Swan (Cygnus atratus) attracted considerable interest as she tried to brood a small clutch of eggs along the riverbank. The weather was warm, and drier than it had been for most of the summer. perhaps she might be lucky. However Sunday and Monday the 23rd and 24th were to test her to the limit. Around 2am on the morning of the 23rd the rain becan to fall and the wind started to howl. For more than 30 hours it rained, and as it rained the river rose. By the early hours of the 24th she was already frantic, trying desperately to shore up her nest. By 10am the nest was still there, but floating. Although probably exhausted she moved incessantly, plucking reed blades of the bottom, trying vainly to build up her nest. The eggs were still same, but became submerged when she sat on the nest. She was engaged in a desperate race to raise the nest before the eggs lost too much heat.
- The black swan tries to move her eggs out of the water pooling in the centre of her nest as the river rises.
Although the rains had now stopped, at least temporarily, millions of gallons were still flowing down the river from high ground and so the river was continuing to rise. Passerby stopped to watch, and throw her bread, which is probably all she had time to eat since she had laid her eggs. No-one knew whether the eggs were fertile. She was the only black swan on the river all summer; tagging along at a safe distance with the larger mute swans that congregated along the quayside. But hybrids between mute and black swans were believed to have occurred in captivity. So it was just possible. And although the odds seemed against her, it was still possible her eggs main survive the flood.
This story will me expanded soon – and the whole story of the black swan and her nest will be told.
All images can be licenses from my Photoshelter website here Search black+swan
A small stream Dunsford Wood, Teign Valley, Devon, England.
Like all photographers I am sometimes asked how I created certain images, and how difficult getting certain pictures were. The answer in most cases is ‘not that difficult provided you’ve planned it and are well prepared’. But sometimes I just make things difficult for myself.
The above picture is a long exposure, 30 seconds in this case, used to blur movement (in the above picture the flowing water) producing a milky, fluid and slightly surreal look to the flowing stream. Obviously the amount of light hitting the camera sensor has to be limited to compensate for such a long exposure. Stopping down to a very small aperture helps but will only get you so far, rarely all the way to 30 seconds exposure. Stacking neutral density filters in front of the lens is one way, but a simpler way (especially this time of year when days are short) is to shoot at dusk, when light levels are naturally low and long shutter speeds are not merely desirable but also necessary.
Late Christmas Day I made a snap decision to get out on to Dartmoor, go for a walk and get some nice images. I left in a rush, trying to multi-task ineffectively as usual. The moor was not inspiring – low grey cloud and steady drizzle do not make for great pictures, so I turned around and reluctantly headed home. Light was fading fast when I found this little stream in the steep, wooded valley of the River Teign. I pulled over and decided to try and get some shots. This was where my rushing and lack of preparation came home to roost. I realised I had left my walking boots by the entrance to my boat and had only the city shoes I was wearing with me. Worse still, upon opening my tripod case (not checked before I left) I discovered that somehow the tripod head had snapped in two (I’ll be writing to Manfrotto shortly). Luckily I also had a small, six inch, tabletop tripod with me, but that meant actually getting in to the stream and perching it on top of boulders if I were obtain any useable shots. By the time I found a suitable spot along the stream it was about 4:15pm and getting gloomier by the minute. A quick scan around confirmed that there were no suitable boulders at the edge of the stream on which to mount the tripod; there was no alternative, shoes and socks had to come off and I had to wade out in to the middle of the stream. Thirty minutes later I stumbled to the side. The light had well and truly gone, so it was time to pack up. I had by then also lost all feeling below the ankles. It was not until i started driving home again that feeling began to return to my feet, doing so in painful waves as flow returned to constricted blood vessels. I had ample time to reflect on the stupidity of my lack of planning. My first actions the following day were to buy a spare tripod and place wellingtons and thick socks on the boot of my car in readiness. Hopefully that is at least one mistake I won’t repeat. Meanwhile I have now place some of these images in my art images of Devon Landscapes Gallery. This can be viewed (and prints purchased) here. Hopefully it was worth the effort. Colin
Book-Cycle volunteers load up container with books for Ghana. image no. MBI000947
Book-Cycle (www.book-cycle.org) is a dynamic young charity based in Exeter, Devon that collects donated books and allows you to choose how much you pay for them (they have a bookshop in West Devon Street, near the Cathedral in Exeter). The charity is run on an entirely voluntary basis, with all the cash raised going to fund their environmental and ‘fairer World’ projects. Perhaps one of the most exciting, for me at least, is that many of the donated books are delivered to swchools in developing countries such as Ethopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Madagascar. Yesterday was quite a big day; a container truck was being loaded up to deliver books to Ghana, and I was lucky enough to meet up with Ant. and some of the other guys behind book-cycle , and basically lounge around taking the odd picture while they sweated away loading the container on a very hot afternoon. From the warehouse in Exeter the books travel to Thamesport deepwater container port. They are being sent to the rural ashanti region of Ghana to help build library facilities, primarily for local children. If you’re in the Exeter area their bookshop (next to the ‘house that moved’ ) is well worth a browse, or check out their website (www.book-cycle.org) for other outlets in Exeter and along the south coast.
Book-Cycle volunteers loading boxes of books into a container truck at their warehouse in Exeter, Devon, for delivery to Ghana. Image No. MBI000944.
Book-Cycle volunteers loading boxes of books into a container truck at their warehouse in Exeter, Devon, for delivery to Ghana. Image no. MBI000948.
Mother and calf common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) swimming in close harmony. Image No. MBI000335.
These pictures were taken during a recent trip to look for blure sharks (Prionace glauca) off the north coast. Although we did find one blue, we had no luck with pictures (next time!). However we did come across a large group of common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) feeding. Each summer substantial numbers of commons dolphins can be found around the coasts of Devon and Cornwall as they follow the mackerel shaols. Hopefully I’ll be adding to these images this summer. As ever, these images can be licenses for reproduction and are also available as fine art prints. Email me , telling me the image number and what you require for further details. You can also search for additional images either from my main website homepage or using my Photoshelter website. Links for both are given in the sidebar.
Common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) swimming, showing tooth rake marks on back. Colin Munro Photography, Image No. MBI000333.
Common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) swimming, head on. Image No. MBI000339.
Common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) swimming at high speed. Image No. MBI000337.
South Devon, England. Image No. MBI000920.
Rocky headland, Start Point, South Devon, England. Image MBI000921.
A very blustery day in late June saw see scrambling around the rocks on Start Point with my son. The southwesterly wind was whipping white horses off the wave tops on the western side of the headland; to the east, sheltered by the high rocks of Start Point, the water within Start bay was almost mirror smooth, disturbed only by surface ripples.
Start Bay from Start Point, South Devon, England. Image No. MBI000922.
As ever, these images are available to reproduce as rights managed images or as art prints on a variety of media. If you’d like to use any of the images in a publication, display, website etc., please email be (colin ‘at’ colinmunrophotography.com) noting the image number and where you’d like to use the image. If you are interested in a print, please visit the prints page for options then email me. Thanks, Colin Munro.
Exeter Midsummer Party marking start of Exeter Festival, Exeter Quayside, 17th June 2011. Pyrotchnics on the River Exe. Image MBI000919
A few quick images from the party on Exeter’s quayside last night. It was the most spectacular sunset, but of course I didn’t have my camera with me (Doh!). I did grab it in time to get some pictures of the finale, which was quite spectacular.
(If you would like to reproduce any of the images on my site, please email me, colin ‘at’ colinmunrophotography.com, giving the image number and the intended use)
Exeter Midsummer Party marking start of Exeter Festival, Exeter Quayside, 17th June 2011. Pyrotchnics on the River Exe. Image No. MBI000918.
Exeter Midsummer Party marking start of Exeter Festival, Exeter Quayside, 17th June 2011. Pyrotchnics on the River Exe. Image No. MBI000917.