Many dream of sandy beaches and turquoise seas, romantic inlets lined with palm trees and whiling the days away in a hammock. Every year, millions make their way to the world’s most famous coasts to enjoy the beachfront lifestyle. Some follow the call of relaxation; others, the call of the wild. Whether they are merely visiting or they call the coast home, humans have had to learn how to share these regions with others. To innumerable life-forms, the border between land and sea is an invaluable habitat. From inhospitable cliffs to tidepools, from reefs to sand dunes – all are home to members of the animal kingdom.
Seagrasses flourish in the shallow, sandy bays of Caribbean islands and attract some of the world’s largest marine mammals. Sea cows will spend many hours grazing here while enjoying the attentions of the ‘cleaner fish’ that remove the algae which grows on their skin. It is a mutually beneficial relationship: sea cow hygiene is maintained while the ‘cleaner fish’ receive large amounts of nutrients with comparatively little effort.
Two very different worlds collide along Namibia’s coast: the wild, untamed power of the Atlantic Ocean washes up against the dry, barren Namib, one of the world’s few coastal deserts. It is an environment of extremes, yet it is home to huge seal colonies which take advantage of the cool waters around the southern tip of Africa and the wealth of fish that congregate here. The presence of the seals attracts shrewd desert predators: brown hyenas and black-backed jackals pose a significant threat to the inexperienced seal offspring.
Atlantic puffins and rockhopper penguins prefer to rear their young in the steep coastal cliffs on remote islands. The proximity of like-minded neighbours and the protection offered by the cliffs makes an attack by land-based predators highly unlikely.
Sea turtles frequently spend several decades at sea before they return to their birthplace to lay their own eggs. Orcas have developed well-honed hunting skills for particular areas of coastline. Spinner dolphins retreat to shallow inlets to regain their strength after long, night-time hunts in the open seas. Sally lightfoot crabs venture out onto rocks to eat algae that only becomes accessible at low tide. The inhabitants of mangrove forests share the riches on offer with marine animals grazing at high tide and land animals doing the same when the tide is out.
Completely different habitats have sprung up along the world’s diverse coastlines over time. Geologists estimate that there are approximately one million kilometres of coastline on Earth. They are merely a small area of the planet’s entire landmass but they are shaped by land and sea. These wild border areas are home to an incredible range of wild life. Some animals spend all of their lives here. Others only come to visit…
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