Characteristic and representative species of Zostera beds in Britain

Some examples of characteristic species of Zostera beds in Britain

Characteristic species are those that are considered to be special to (rare or at the limits of their distribution) or are especially abundant in a particular biotope.

They are generally immediately conspicuous and easily identified (K. Hiscock 1996).




Stalked jellyfish

Haliclystus auricula

Lucernariopsis campanulata

  • Widespread
  • South-west distribution

Common cuttlefish

Sepia officinalis

  • Southern distribution

Little cuttlefish

Sepiola atlantica



Hippocampus ramulosis

  • Reaches its northern limit along the south-west coast


H. hippocampus

  • Possibly occurs on the south-west coast

Broad-nosed pipefish

Snake pipefish

Entelurus aequoraeus

Syngathus typhie

  • Both are almost totally restricted to eelgrass beds, south and east coasts


Laomedea angulata

  • A distinctive shallow water hydroid whose substrate appears to be totally restricted to Z. marina. Few hydroids are so substrate specific.
  • Was thought to have disappeared from Britain after the eelgrass wasting disease epidemic of the 1930s.
  • In 1981, it was found on Z. marina leaves in Studland Bay, Dorset and in a small bed, just north of Misery Point in the River Yealm, Plymouth Sound.
  • Cornelius (1982) suggested that it may be dispersed on detached, floating Zostera sp. leaves and that perhaps these populations had re-colonised previous habitats from European populations.

Red algae

Polysiphonia harveyii

Rhodophysema georgii

  • Was unintentionally introduced to the British Isles before 1908 with oysters
  • This diminutive crustose red algal epiphyte is host specific to Z. marina.

Green algae

Cladophora etroflex

C. battersii


Entocladia perforans

  • Both are very rare and have only been recorded in a few locations on the south coast of England and the west coast of Ireland.
  • This microscopic green alga is an endophyte and host specific to Zostera species.

Brown algae

Halothrix lumbricalis Leblondiella densa

Myrionema magnusii

Cladosiphon zosterae

Punctaria crispata

Cladosiphon contortus

  • These 3 small brown algal epiphytes are host-restricted to Zostera leaves.
  • These 2 larger brown algae are also host-restricted to Zostera sp. leaves.

This large brown alga occurs principally on Zostera rhizomes.

Representative species of Zostera beds in Britain

Representative species are those considered to be typical of a feature, habitat or community (K. Hiscock 1996)

The other British seagrass species, Ruppia maritima and R. cirrhosa, may be found amongst Zostera beds.

MICROHABITAT: Surface of leaves and stems






Films of ciliates and diatoms etc.

Enteromorpha sp.

Ectocarpus sp.

Cladophora rectangularis

Rhodophysema geogii

Ceramium nodulosum

Gracilaria gracilis

Gracilariopsis longissima

Polysiphonia sp.

Brongniartella byssoides

Dumontia contorta

Stypocaulon scoparia

Ulva lactuca

Fucus serratus





Gammarus insensibilis

Idotea baltica

I. linearis

Praunus sp.



Chameleon shrimps (mysids)


Rissoa membranacea

Hydrobia ventrosa

Bittium reticulatum

Littorina littorea

Calliostoma striatum

C. montacuti

Cantharidus striatus

Jujubinus striatus

Hinia reticulata

Haminoea navicula

Akera bullata

Aplysia punctata

Oscanius membranaceus

Archidoris pseudoargus

Cadlina obveolata

Aeolis papillosa

Alderia modesta


Spire shell

Common or edible periwinkle


Grooved topshell

Netted dogwhelk

All seaslugs

MICROHABITAT: On or in the sediment




Bivalve molluscs

Cerastoderma edule

C. glaucum

C. exiguum

Lucina/Lucinoma borealis

Lepton sp.

Mytilus edulis

Common or edible cockles

Lagoonal cockle

Little cockle

Northern Lucina

This and other commensal molluscs may be found in other species’ burrows

Mussels, attached to old rhizomes


Arenicola marina

Lanice conchilega

Marphysa bellii

Oerstedia dorsalis

Myxicola infundibulum


Sandmason worm

Annelid worm, local & probably rare

Ribbon worm

Slime tubeworm


Synapta digitata

Paracentrotus lividus

Sea cucumber

Sea Urchin, normally bores holes in rocks but often found amongst Zostera


Phascolosoma pellucidum



Upogebia sp.

Burrowing shrimps

Sea Anemones

Cereus pedunculatus

Peachia hastata

Nematostella vectensis

Daisy anemones

Burrowing anemones

Starlet anemone, typical of lagoon eelgrass beds


Gobiusculus flavescens

Spinachia spinachia

Ballanas sp.

Anguilla anguilla

Liza sp.

Dicentrarchus labrax

2-spot goby

15-spined stickleback

Small wrasse


Grey mullet