Sandstone beach-dwelling mini-beasts

Little Sirius Cove, Sydney, photographed on a walking trip from Taronga Wildlife Park.

Little Sirius Cove, Sydney

Little Sirius Cove, Sydney

The colourful sandstone cliffs of the cove are home to some strange little beasts.

Wharf Louse 1Wharf Louse 2I once again enlisted the assistance of naturalist Rod Hobson for some answers to what these creatures might be. Never one to miss a challenge, he soon identified them as Wharf Lice (Ligia exotica), also known as Sea-slaters or Beach Lice, members of the family Ligiidae.

From Rod:

A paper on this isopod by Marc Roddis and Frances O’Brien in 2008 reveals that Ligia exotica is one of only two species in the genus. The other is the Swift Beach Louse Ligia australiensis. The latter species  is endemic (to Australia, obviously) whilst exotica is a cosmopolitan species. Other facts of a trivial nature that will appeal to your discombobulated and senescing intellect (blog owner’s note: he is obviously confusing me with someone else here) are that L. exotica:

  • can exist in either fresh or saltwater environments.
  • can walk underwater.
  • can walk backwards — a sort of primeval Vince Lester.
  • appear to have hierarchies of sorts; observed pushing fellow Wharf Lice off rocks, walking over the tops of others.
  • is an impressive jumper covering to six centimetres in a single leap despite having no specialised jumping limbs.


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