It is a common misconception that the Solent is mostly devoid of life, and that there isn’t much going on beneath the green-grey surface of our local seas. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
1. The Solent used to be a river - Ten thousand years ago, at the end of the last ice age, the river Solent carved its way eastwards along the south coast — the rivers Avon, Test and Itchen were mere tributaries. But as the ice receded, rising sea levels and sinking land slowly flooded the river valleys along the south coast, giving rise to today’s coastline.
2. Seahorses swim around our shores - Seahorses are usually associated with far off shores and distant coral reefs, but they also live right here in our local seas. In fact, two species of seahorse, the long-snouted seahorse and short-snouted seahorse have both been sighted off the Isle of Wight coast.
3. Cuttlefish are colour-changing clever-clogs - The cuttlefish of the Solent have camouflage skills that are so highly developed that if a checkerboard were placed beneath one, it would assume the same pattern. So you may be surprised to learn that they are, in fact, colour blind. They are able to camouflage using their enhanced perception of contrast and by detecting the polarisation of the light waves entering their eyes.
4. Mantis shrimps are impressive predators - These remarkable burrowing crustaceans have perhaps the most complex colour vision in the animal kingdom and are ferocious predators, able to strike their prey at lightning speed. The Solent is a hotspot for a breeding population of these impressive, but elusive hunters.
5. There are meadows under the waves - The Solent’s shallow waters and intertidal mudflats host some of the most extensive seagrass meadows in the country. They provide shelter and food for hundreds of species. Just one hectare of seagrass can support 80,000 fish and 100,000 invertebrates such as seabass, spider crabs and seahorses. Not only that, seagrasses act as carbon sinks, removing CO2 from the atmosphere faster than tropical rainforests!