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Environment

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The diversity of habitats at Ricketts Point is what makes this marine sanctuary so interesting. The sanctuary includes rocky (sandstone) intertidal and subtidal habitats, sandy beaches and subtidal soft substrates, with offshore reefs displaying a high diversity of flora and fauna. Near the shore, the rocks are covered in green and red algae that shelter a myriad of smaller creatures, including tiny brittlestars, bristle worms and crustaceans. The soft seafloor is covered in patches of green seagrass or bunches of seaweed attached to small rocks.

Further offshore rock bommies are carpeted in green Caulerpa, or tall brown Sargassum seaweed, which hides numerous animals amongst its stiff dissected leaves. The offshore rocks and ledges attract fish too, including schools of Southern Hulafish, and occasional wrasse and Victorian Scalyfin. Cryptic weedfish and shrimp can be found among the algae.

There are a diverse range of invertebrates particularly molluscs. Grazing on the algae on the rocks are a vast number of seasnails that scrape the algae off using a chain saw like tongue called a radula. Some common grazing molluscs include Top Shells (Austrocochlea constricta), Conniwinks (Bembicium nanum), Blue Periwinkles (Nodilittorina unifasciata), Pheasant Snails (Phasianella australis), limpets, and in deeper waters Black-lipped Abalone (Haliotis rubra) can be found. Found amongst the herbivorous snail are a range of carnivorous molluscs that use their radula for drilling holes in other snail, worms, and sea squirts in order to feed on the tissues within. Some common carnivorous snails include Dog Whelks (Dicathais orbita) and Chequerboard Snails (Cominella lineolata).

Other molluscs include octopus, squid and cuttles. Close observation may reveal the Blue-ringed Octopus (Hapalochlaena maculosa) which hide under stones, but remember, do not touch. The normally shy creature will flash tiny rings in electric-blue if disturbed too much. This is a warning to take seriously, as its poisonous bite is very dangerous.

Also seen within the waters are the Dumpling Squid ( Euprymna tasmanica) that hide in the sand and on the outer section of reef one may encounter the Giant Cuttle (Sepia apama) that makes their homes in the rock crevices. These animals are all more active at night so a night dive or snorkel with a strong underwater torch may reveal some of these fascinating animals.

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