Love is in the air again this year along our coastlines and University of Hull needs your help to keep an eye out for signs of passion in the lugworm population.
The lugworm, Arenicola marina, is a vital source of food for wader birds and fish as well as playing a key role in fisheries as a source of bait.
Volunteers are being asking to keep an eye out for any signs of love within the lugworm population on sandy shores around the UK.
This species spends its life in a burrow in the sediment so opportunities to meet a mate are limited. Instead, the males release sperm which collects in “puddles” on the surface of the beach. When the tide comes in, the sperm is washed down into the burrows of the females and fertilises her eggs.
Not a lot is known about the process - all that we do know is that specific environmental conditions are needed to trigger the release of the sperm and the egg at the same time. So scientists are calling on members of the public to join them as “citizen scientists” to help fill in the knowledge gaps.
The “Spermwatch” project is part of a wider conservation project called Capturing Our Coast funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It is a partnership led by Newcastle University including Hull, Bangor & Portsmouth Universities, Marine Conservation Society, Marine Biological Association, Scottish Association of Marine Sciences and Earthwatch Europe.