Marine Life

 The Otago Peninsula is renowned internationally for its abundance of incredible sub-Antarctic wildlife.  Sir David Bellamy, once commented “in my opinion, the Otago Peninsula is the finest example of eco-tourism in the world” Seals and Sea Lions come ashore to lie on the rocks of the Otago Peninsula.  At Taiaroa Head, the Royal Albatross has established its only land-based breeding colony in the world. 


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    Fish and Mammals

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  Fish and Mammals | Invertebrates 

Stalk-eyed mud crab  

Stalk-Eyed Mud Crab

Macrophthalmus hirtipes



Small tunneling systems are sometimes seen on muddy bottom inside the Otago harbour including the Wellers rock area. These tunnels usually belong to the stalk-eyed mud crab which commonly sit just out side their tunnel ready to retreat at any sign of danger such as an approaching diver.

The carapace is usually seen around 3cm in width.




Small squid are sometimes seen foraging about the water column on night dives around the harbour entrance. Living under the sand by day they are rarely seen, however small clusters of eggs which look like polystyrene balls are frequently seen stuck to protected areas of rocks in proof they are around.

Usually seen at around 5cm in length.

Squat lobster  

Squat Lobster

Munida gregaria


Whale krill



Thick swarms of juvenile squat lobsters or whale krill as it is sometime known, come down our coast and into the harbour over a small period in the summer. Most are eaten by seabirds and fishes or they wash up on beaches staining them red. Recently we have found some mature squat lobsters at the very base of the harbour living under some of the buildings held up by pylons.

Juveniles are usually seen up to 3 cm in length and adults 10cm.

Spaghetti worm  

Spaghetti Worm

Terebellidae sp.



The tentacles of this worm resemble spaghetti and are usually the only part of the animal visible, the rest is permanently burrowed into some soft substartes. They feed by gathering food that has fallen onto the sea floor within it's reach.

The diameter of the tube is usually around 2cm and any number of tentacles can be visible and length is variable.

Shield shell  

Shield Shell

Scutus breviculus


Ducks bill limpet



It's shell is often completely covered in black velvety flesh, but can sometimes be seen through a gap in the covering. Two antennae indicate the location of its head and mouth. It is given the common name ducks bill limpet after the shape of it shell resembling a ducks bill. It is found in large aggregations at some dive sites inside the harbour including Wellers rock.

May reach up to 170mm long, and 110mm wide.

Seven-armed seastar  

Seven-Armed Seastar

Astrostole scabra



This large is New Zealand's largest seastar it's is light blue or yellowish brown in colour and has large orange coloured tube feet. It can often be seen chasing down chitons, paua, crustaceans, sea tulips, and other seastars, and some larger specimens have even been known to catch fish. They are commonly seen at Aramoana and other dive sites around the harbour entrance and along our coastline.

Reaches up to 70cm in diameter.



Evechinus chloroticus


Sea urchin, or sea egg



The kina is a round shelled animal covered in spikes. Divers should be wary not rest or press against a kina as it can puncture and cause injury. They are herbivores and graze on algae covered reefs. Often kina have eaten away all plant life on a particular piece of reef known as kina barrens. They fall prey to many other invertebrates including the eleven armed seastar and crayfish. Large aggregations can be found on the off shores reefs such as Moeraki where they have cleared certain areas of algae.

Diameters of up to 20cm have been recorded.

Sea tulip  

Sea Tulip

Pyura pachydermatina



Sea tulips are filter feeders and prefer wave and current swept areas or cooler water where they can attach themselves to rock. Usually found in clusters they are sometimes confused as plants because of their name. They are found at most of our dive sites along the shoreline.

Can grow over 1m in length.

Sea spider  

Sea Spider

Pycnogonid sp.



Spiders will follow you every where, yes even on a dive! How ever sea spiders are not true spiders even though they resemble the same shape. Keep a close eye out because these spiders are small and can be found creeping amongst the rocks and seaweeds.

Commonly seen up to 3cm in diameter.

Sea cucumber  

Sea Cucumber

Australostichopus mollis



It is the most common sea cucumber in New Zealand. They appear mottled grey-brown to black in colour and have small soft spikes along its length. They ingest sediment from which food is extracted and faecal coils (piles of sand) are deposited. Areas of the otago harbour such as Wellers rock have great numbers of sea cucumbers and their faecal coils can be seen covering great areas.

Grow up to 150-200mm in length.