Thanks to everyone in Shetland who reports their findings to the Shark Trust’s Great Eggcase Hunt, we now have a good idea of the species that occur locally. But the more records that are submitted the better this understanding will become.
It can be a bit confusing at first, working out which eggcase is which but the Shark Trust’s very easy to use app will guide you through and the identification key on their website is great too. It helps to soak the eggcases in water before trying to work out what they are.
To the best of my knowledge, seven kinds of eggcases have been found on Shetland’s beaches. The most common eggcase by far is that of the small spotted catfish, aka dogfish, with its small narrow capsule and long curly tendrils. I am always hoping to find a cuckoo ray eggcase but have only found three so far, they have a bulbous capsule and long sinuous horns. It is always a joy to find the huge eggcase of a flapper skate, the largest species of skate in the world.
The Shark Trust examined all the Shetland records recently and found that these islands are a particularly good place to find the rough textured starry skate eggcases. Even more excitingly, three ‘aberrant’ starry skate eggcases have been found on Shetland beaches. Each is much larger and more typical in size for north western Atlantic populations of this species. Could they have drifted here, or is there another intriguing explanation for the presence of these unusually large starry skate eggcases on our shores?
I can’t wait to find out what else might be revealed by the Shetland Community Wildlife Project and the Shark Trust. A new species record for Shetland? More unusual starry skate eggcases?
Happy eggcase hunting!
If you would like to get involved in the Shetland Eggcase Hunt click here.