Environment Park Subotopic Layout
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The far eastern edge of the marine sanctuary falls under the influence of the Barwon River, which brings sediment down river. Some animals, like the unusual Hairy Stone Crab (Lomis hirta), are quite limited to this area as their habitats are heavily influenced by the river.
The rocks are often covered in brown algae ranging in size from Bull Kelp (Durvillea potatorum) to the smaller Neptunes Necklace (Hormosira banksii) in the intertidal area.
Many of the boulders in this area cover an astounding diversity of marine invertebrates including molluscs like Elephant Snails (Scutus antipodes) and many species of Chiton, crabs and other crustaceans, worms, sea squirts, flatworms, and sponges. The tip of the eastern reef has numerous filter-feeding animals such as tubeworms (Galeolaria caespitosa) and feather stars that enjoy the fast currents. Small colourful sea slugs are hidden along the reef sides.
Between the Basalt and Sandstone reefs there is a small sandy beach littered with the remains of animals and plants that live in the deeper water that have washed up onto the shoreline. The beach also provides a convenient viewing point for a forest of Giant Kelp (Macrocystis angustifolia) which grows attached to the submerged sections of the reef.
Further west, the sandstone reef is covered in Neptunes Necklace and supports an extensive range of intertidal molluscs, numerous seastars in the pools, and anemones and crustaceans like barnacles on the higher points. This area is used for schools conducting surveys and is well described at www.rockyshores.auz.info.
Offshore rocks provide vantage points to view large stingrays as well as small sharks such as Varied Catsharks (Parascyllium variolatum) and Port Jackson Sharks (Heterodontus portusjacksoni). Under ledges Southern Rock Lobster (Jasus edwardsii) can be found and also the highly sought after Black Lipped Abalone (Haliotus rubra). The Marine Sanctuary provides protection for these animals giving them greater opportunity to breed and replace those that are taken form other areas, assisting in the sustainability of these fisheries.
At night the Maori Octopus, Australia's largest octopus, prowls for large crabs in the rock pools. They are completely harmless and are fascinating to watch. With an arm span of three metres and their deep red colouration, they are one of the most beautiful octopus species in Australia. Divers will sometimes come across their home dens beneath boulders, the entrance littered with discarded shells of former meals. Maori Octopus can manipulate their soft skin to resemble large spikes in an attempt to bluff predators. As suggested by their name, the species is also found in New Zealand waters.