Can you find a mermaid’s purse?

My son was overjoyed to finally find a mermaid’s purse the other day on our first visit to a small stretch of shingle beach along East Cowes esplanade, on our lovely Isle of Wight. He has eyes like a hawk, and spotted it amongst shiny black bladderwrack. Inspired by my first find of a mermaid’s purse years ago, I used it as inspiration for a page in our seaside children’s book Jack and Boo’s Bucket of Treasures:

I spot sea glass
for my bucket
in storms
a lost jewel
from a mermaid’s

Mermaid’s purses are the egg cases of skates, dogfish and rays. I think the one my son found is from a common British shark, known as the lesser spotted catshark (Scyliorhinus canicula) or commonly referred to as a dogfishEgg cases are laid by female dogfishes in shallow waters and the tendrils help them to attach to seaweed. After they hatch, the egg cases are often washed up on the coast for small children to find. The Shark Trust’s Eggcase website is keen that you go to their website and record any mermaid’s purses you find, as numbers of rays and skate have declined in recent years. There’s loads of information on egg cases and if you find one on a beach they have a great identification page to help you classify it.

So, what are you waiting for? Get out on the beach and start hunting for mermaid’s purses! But if you find a mermaid’s handbag, please don’t look inside as the contents are a closely guarded secret. Happy treasure hunting…

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