THESE are just some of the creatures of the deep which are thriving off our coast.
The photographs were captured on a dive on the Durham Heritage Coast at two sites close to Ryhope, at depths of between 10 and 15 metres.
The images are part of the Seasearch project, which is working to discover more about the marine wildlife and habitats just off our shore.
So far, the survey has discovered more than 50 different species
The eight scuba divers who took part in the latest journey beneath the waves found crabs, lobsters, sponges, sea slugs, several species of fish and starfish – including one which was found growing a new limb.
The team also found a catshark, which are rarely spotted, and a species of stalked sponge called guancha lacunosa, which has appeared in very few records taken from checks in the area.
Recruitment is now under way to find more volunteers who will be given the chance to take part in another course later this month, in preparation for more dives.
Paula Lightfoot, Seasearch’s regional coordinator in the North East, said: “It can be challenging, but when conditions are good, it is always rewarding to dive on the Durham Heritage Coast. It is such a unique environment with its own particular mix of species.
“We were thrilled with the diversity of wildlife we saw and can’t wait for the next opportunity to dive there.”
Heritage Coast officer Niall Benson added: “Time and time again I am truly astonished at the amazing sea life being found off the Durham coast.
“Those who remember the black days will hardly be able to believe the recovery, but seeing the colour, vibrance and range of life being found is inspirational.
“Seasearch really does a fantastic job with volunteers going out to record the sea life that they find.
“This provides much-needed data to clearly show what is going on underneath the waves.”
Seasearch first surveyed the Durham coast in 1990 and began regular dives in 2009 with the support of the Spellbinder II boat and its skipper Allan Lopez.
Anyone who would like to get involved can join an introductory observers course in Houghton on Saturday, September 29. For more information email at email@example.com
Places cost £20, half the usual price, with the cost reduced through funding from the North Sea Wildlife Trust.
Seasearch is a national project coordinated by the Marine Conservation Society with more information available on www.seasearch.org.uk.