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07/13/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 07/13/2021 09:13

Royal Mail explores the waters of the UK with the Wild Coasts stamp issue

Royal Mail today announced the launch of a new set of 14 stamps that celebrate the beautiful and surprising wildlife of our coastal seas and shores.

UK waters and the British Isles provide a unique habitat for a multitude of species and 10 of the stamps feature striking imagery of: mammals; fish; anemones; crustaceans; birds; molluscs; and cold-water coral reefs.

Shown on the stamps are the:

  • Northern Gannet
  • Common Cuttlefish
  • Grey Seal
  • Bottlenose Dolphin
  • Spiny Spider Crab
  • Long-snouted Seahorse
  • Orca
  • Fried-egg Anemone
  • Cuckoo Wrasse
  • Cold-water Coral Reef

A further four-stamps, presented in a miniature sheet, showcase a marine food chain: the transfer of energy from algae to top predator, from Phytoplankton, a type of photoautotroph at the base of the food chain to Harbour Porpoise, a type of secondary carnivore at the top.

Royal Mail worked with marine biologist, David Sims on the stamp issue.

David Sims is a Senior Research Fellow at the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth and Professor of Marine Ecology at the University of Southampton. He is a world-leading researcher on the behaviour and ecology of marine top predators, notably sharks, having used satellite tracking technology to help improve shark conservation.

He said of the stamp issue: 'The stamps are a great opportunity to celebrate the UK's wonderfully diverse marine life but also to acknowledge our responsibility to protect these increasingly impacted species and ecosystems.'

The waters of the UK:

The UK is fringed by a patchwork of unique and beautiful marine habitats - from wild, Atlantic shorelines, to placid lochs and lagoons, sheltered by complex coastal geological features. These places support an incredible diversity of wildlife, each species interacting in complex and often fascinating ways.

Nowhere in the UK is more than 70 miles (113km) from the coast, and the waters teem with incredible marine life - sharks, coral reefs, dolphins, turtles and colourful fish that would look perfectly at home in a tropical seascape.

UK waters have a unique diverse geology and position on the fertile boundary between cooler Arctic waters in the north and warmer seas of the south and west; this allows for a multitude of species, including many of international importance.

Around 3,000 s species of animal and seaweed are known to inhabit UK coastal waters, with many more still to be discovered.

Stamp by stamp:

Northern Gannet

Nesting on cliffs and diving to hunt small fish, the northern gannet (Morus bassanus) is one of Britain's largest seabirds. Northern gannets nest on cliffs in large breeding colonies, often on exposed, isolated rocky outcrops and islands. They hunt fish, flying high above the sea and diving on their prey, sometimes hitting the water at speeds of almost 100km/h. Thickened skulls and special 'air bags' in their necks allow them to survive the impact.

Long-snouted Seahorse

The long-snouted seahorse (Hippocampus guttulatus) is an unusually shaped fish, often associated with seagrass beds but also found in other coastal habitats. One of two UK seahorse species, the long-snouted seahorse is a master of disguise. Its untidy appearance and slow, swaying movements make it almost invisible among seagrass and seaweed. The tiny mouth and long snout are used to catch tiny crustaceans. As with all seahorse species, the male broods fertilised eggs and gives birth.

Common Cuttlefish

The common cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) is the largest UK species of cuttlefish. Individuals can rapidly change colour, for example to show aggression. Most beachgoers and budgerigar owners are familiar with the 'bone' of the common cuttlefish. During the highly intelligent animal's one to two-year life, the white, oval-shaped cuttlebone provides shape and controls buoyancy. Cuttlefish can change colour and skin texture rapidly to blend in with their surroundings, confuse prey or communicate. They squirt black ink to deter predators and have a sharp, parrot-like beak, which delivers a paralysing, venomous bite to their prey. Black eggs known as 'sea grapes' are carefully attached in clusters to natural and human-made objects on the seabed, and the mother usually dies after spawning.

Orca

There is a resident pod of orcas (Orcinus orca) in the Outer Hebrides. This individual is 'spyhopping' - raising its head above water to view the surface - as it hunts. The orca is an effective, intelligent hunter and apex predator, sometimes called the 'killer whale'. Orcas are the largest members of the dolphin family and found globally. The UK has one resident population of eight or fewer animals in the Outer Hebrides, but transient groups have been sighted in waters all around the UK.

Grey Seal

Pups of grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) can double their weight in a week, thanks to the richness of their mothers' milk. Almost half of the world's grey seals live in UK waters. In 2019, well over 3,000 pups were born at Blakeney Point in Norfolk, compared to only 25 in 2001, representing an incredible population recovery. Long, sensitive whiskers and a streamlined body allow the seals to hunt in deep, murky water, and a third eyelid protects their large eyes from damage when diving.

Fried-egg Anemone

The fried-egg anemone (Actinothoe sphyrodeta) is found on open rock around the British Isles. Only some individuals have this dramatic orange-yellow centre. The fried-egg anemone is a small, delicate anemone, white in colour, with white stripes and fine stinging tentacles used to catch prey. The orange oral disk or 'fried-egg' colouration is less common than the white form. It can reproduce sexually or by splitting itself in half, creating aggregations of clones.

Bottlenose Dolphin

Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) are sociable and playful marine mammals living in groups in waters all around the UK. Bottlenose dolphins are intelligent mammals, Two-four metres long and found worldwide. They live in social groups, hunting and playing together. Pods usually include up to 20 individuals but can be over 1,000-strong. Dolphins navigate and hunt in low visibility by echolocation, using refl ected sound waves to create a 'picture' of their surroundings.

Cuckoo Wrasse

The cuckoo wrasse (Labrus mixtus) is one of our most colourful fish, found near rocky sea-beds all around the British Isles. Cuckoo wrasse begin life as females, living in groups dominated by a single male. If there is a need, a female can become male. This is the most colourful of five wrasse species known to breed in UK waters. All have strong jaws and teeth to consume shelled prey like crabs, sea urchins and molluscs. By controlling grazers, they help maintain healthy kelp forests.

Spiny Spider Crab

The spiny spider crab (Maja brachydactyla) is protected by sharp, thorn-like spines. Some males are reported to have a claw-span of more than a metre. Spiny spider crabs are long-legged crabs with a pear-shaped carapace, covered in thorn-like spines. Seasonal aggregations of thousands occur in some regions, possibly to provide protection for the crabs during moulting. Tiny velcro-like hooks cover their shells and are used to attach fragments of seaweed and sponge for camouflage and protection.

Cold-water Coral Reef

Usually associated with warm tropical waters, corals are also found around Britain. Some UK species can form dense reefs in deeper, northern waters. Although often plant-like in appearance, corals are animals, related closely to jellyfish. The UK is home to a surprisingly large number of coral species, including the deep-sea coral Desmophyllum pertusum, which forms extensive biodiverse reefs, thousands of years old, in deep, northern waters.

The full set of 14 stamps, available in a Presentation Pack, retails at £14.50. The stamps and a range of collectible products are available to pre-order from today (13 July) at www.royalmail.com/wildcoasts and go on general sale from 22 July 2021.