Are you looking for an egg hunt with a bit of difference this Easter? Why not join the Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s Living Seas project on the beach for one of their Great Easter Egg Case Hunts?
Instead of chocolate, they will be exploring the beach in search of the washed-up egg cases of sharks, skates and rays.
Would you believe there are over 30 species of British sharks and over 16 species of skate and ray which have regularly been recorded in British waters?
Sharks, skate and rays all lay their eggs in tough, leathery cases, commonly known as ‘mermaid’s purses’, along the seabed. Once the babies are old enough they wriggle free from these egg cases which then get washed-up onto our beaches offering a glimpse of the rich sea life living just below the waves. These alien looking, natural treasures are all unique and sometimes you can even find an egg case with a shark-shaped embryo still inside.
Along the coast of the North West we are likely to find the egg cases of numerous species including thornback rays, with rows of fierce thorns running down their wings and tail, cuckoo rays, blonde rays, spotted rays, small spotted catsharks – one of our most common species of shark and nursehound sharks that can grow to 1.5 metres long, living in the shallows eating squid, octopus, crab and shrimp.
It is possible to identify the exact species due to the size, shape and colour of the egg cases found on the beach and with a little bit of guidance you will soon become a mermaid purse expert.
Nursehound sharks for instance, lay egg cases that can grow to 10cm long. The egg cases have thick curly tendrils dangling from each corner which are used to anchor the case to seaweed, whilst the egg cases of small spotted catsharks are smaller and honey coloured.
Sadly, in recent years several of our species have dramatically declined making egg hunt events like this and your contributions so important. All the records we collect will be sent to The Shark Trust to provide information on their potential nesting grounds, vital for their overall protection.
The Great Easter Egg Case Hunts are more than just a lot of fun. They are also a great way for you and your family to get out and get involved in the protection and conservation of our amazing marine creatures.
Carol and Owen Fawcett from Bispham are local egg case experts and have collected and recorded over 24,000 egg cases along the Fylde coastline, significantly helping The Shark Trust in identifying the Irish Sea as an important breeding ground for numerous shark, skate and ray species.
“By monitoring and learning about our marine environment we are able to understand and appreciate the huge biodiversity of our world. Its great fun and what is more exciting than sharks?” Owen Fawcett, local egg case expert.
We are hosting numerous Easter egg case hunts along the Fylde and Sefton Coast from Monday 26th March till Tuesday 10th April so there’s plenty of opportunities to get involved with us. For more information please head to our website www.irishsea.org/whats-on.