New Zealand Reef and Rocky Foreshore Animals
Scroll through the species below or click on the link to go directly to a specific animal.
Names: Crayfish (Jasus edwardsii) / Kōura papatea
Habitats: Saltwater rocky environments: 0.5-275m deep.
Feed: Scavengers: living and dead, animals and plants.
Special Features: Females carry eggs beneath her tail.
Crayfish breathe through feather-like gills and have large crushing pincers on their first pair of walking legs. Two species inhabit New Zealand's reefs and coastlines – the Red Spiny Crayfish and the Green Packhorse Crayfish.
Red Crayfish are also known as spiny rock lobsters because of the spiny growths on the sides of their tail and they can be red, purple or orange. In contrast, Green Packhorse Crayfish are sometimes called smooth-tailed rock lobsters and are greener in colour and less spiny.
Names: Cushion Star (Patiriella regularis).
Habitats: Rocky reefs and sandy foreshores.
Size: Approx 6-10cm across.
Feed: Scavenger and predator of small invertebrates.
Special Features: To catch food, the Cushion Star's inflated cushion collapses on top of prey underneath.
Cushion Stars found in warmer subtropical waters, while some are kept in aquariums. They're shaped and coloured like a fancy biscuit and are common on the rocky beaches in and around Napier.
Names: Hermit Crab (Pagurus novizelandiae) / Papaka moke.
Habitats: Saltwater – from shallow reefs and shorelines to deep sea bottoms.
Size: From 3-5mm across to the size of a coconut!
Feed: Scavenger and debris feeder.
Special Features: A Hermit Crab will live in anything, even a discarded Coke bottle!
The Hermit Crab's soft and vulnerable abdomen is protected from predators by a salvaged empty seashell (or another portable cavity such as a piece of wood or stone) carried by the Hermit Crab, into which its whole body can retract.
Hermit Crabs often inhabit the empty shells of sea snails. But as it grows in size, it must find a larger shell and abandon the previous one. This habit of living in a second-hand shell gives rise to its popular name, an analogy to a hermit who lives alone.
Hermit Crabs often use vacancy chains to find new shells. When a new, bigger shell becomes available, they will gather around it forming a queue from largest to smallest. When the largest crab moves into the new shell, the second-biggest crab moves into the newly vacated shell, thereby making its previous shell available to the third crab.
Names: Kina (Evechinus chloroticus) / Sea Egg or Sea Urchin.
Habitats: Coastal New Zealand – 12-14m deep.
Size: 16-17cm round.
Feed: Algae and weed.
Special Features: Light sensitive. Can tell when a predator is hovering above them.
Kina are popular Māori kaimoana (seafood). Shaped like a spiky sphere, Kina's long, brittle spines are blood red, and they're flexible tube feet are used to grip the surface and give them motion.
Kina are found all around coastal New Zealand in shallow waters, preferring areas with moderate tidal and wave activity. In the North Island of New Zealand they're mostly found on rocky seafloors.
Names: Mussel (Perna canaliculus) / Kuku.
Habitats: Coastal New Zealand – up to 14m deep.
Size: Up to 20cm.
Feed: Filter feeders on plankton and other microscopic free-floating sea creatures.
Special Features: Not very good at performing tricks for the Aquarium's divers.
Mussels are usually found clumped together on rocks all around New Zealand's coastline. At low tide Mussels in the middle of a clump will undergo less water loss because of water capture by the other mussels.
Names: Paddle Crab (Ovalipes catharus).
Habitats: Shallow coastal saltwaters.
Size: Approx 15cm across.
Feed: Shellfish and Pipi.
Special Features: Paddle Crabs have a special spit, which they use to 'stick' stuff to their backs!
Common on New Zealand's sandy beaches, the Paddle Crab burrows backwards into the sand, leaving their eyes protruding. They're a favourite food of Octopus.
Names: Pāua (Haliotis iris).
Habitats: Shallow coastal waters along rocky shorelines in depths of 1-10m.
Size: Up to 180mm wide.
Special Features: Pāua are called abalone in the USA.
Pāua is the name given to the large edible sea snails native to New Zealand waters. Pāua shell has a curved row of holes on the outside, and the internal flesh is a delicacy. The interior of the shell is also used to make jewellery.
New Zealand’s Pāua are only found in New Zealand and are distinguished by their brilliantly coloured oval-shaped shells, inside which is a large muscular foot that clings to rocks. They have a pair of eyes, a mouth and tentacles, and breathe through gills, which are near their mouth under a row of pores in the shell.
Pāua less than 7cm will likely live in crevices and under stones in shallow areas while adults will be found more regularly in deeper waters. Pāua can survive strong tidal surges by clinging to rocks using their large muscular foot. The Pāua's predators are crabs, lobsters, Octopus, starfish and some other fish.
Names: Sea Slugs (Glossodoris amoena).
Habitats: In and around rock pools along New Zealand coasts.
Size: Up to 58mm wide.
Feed: Specialist feeders. Some species feeding solely on sponges.
Special Features: Able to breath through a plate on its back by opening a mantle exposing a body plate.
Sea Slugs are white slugs with orange spots and are found in and around rock pools along New Zealand's coastline. Sea Slugs are essentially shellfish that have over evolutionary time lost their shells.
Names: Seven-armed Starfish (Astrostole scabra).
Habitats: Coastal New Zealand, below low-tide level.
Size: Up to 40cm in diameter.
Feed: Carnivores – eat Kina, Pāua and many other aquatic life forms.
Special Features: If the Seven-armed Starfish loses an arm it can grow a replacement from the stump!
Seven-armed Starfish are New Zealand's largest and most voracious starfish, growing up to 70cm in diameter. Usually found at below low-tide level, they're aggressive carnivores and will eat Kina, Pāua and many other aquatic life forms.
The Seven-armed Starfish can be a blue-grey with brilliant orange tubular feet. They digest their food outside the body by using their stomach to envelop prey first then ingesting it.