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CZ-Tip - Identifying Animals and Plants on the Massachusetts Coast

Find ways to get to, protect, and enjoy the coast with tips from the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM).

Many plants and animals make the coastline of Massachusetts their home. For animals, the shoreline may provide a place to rest, nest, feed, or reproduce. For plants and seaweeds, the beach or nearshore area affords a place to root, shoot, spread, and replicate. With the wealth of species out there, identification can be a challenge. But wouldn’t it be nice to name that seabird, or maybe even finally be able to identify (and avoid) that pesky poison ivy? Below are a few links to help you identify some of the more common animals and plants at the shore.

CZM also provides a range of resources for identifying invasive species along the coast. See the Marine Invasive Species Program

Birds, Seals, Turtles, and Other Vertebrates (i.e., animals with backbones)

Shellfish (and Seashells), Sea Stars, and Other Invertebrates

  • tidepool
    Shellfish, seashells, and crabs in a tidepool.
    Shellfish at the Shore (PDF, 5 MB) - This Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries poster provides photographs and descriptions of common shellfish found on Massachusetts shores.
  • Cape Cod Beachcombing: A Dozen Sea Shells You Will Surely Find - This article from VisitorFun describes the shells that you are likely to find while exploring beaches on Cape Cod.
  • Seashells from the Ocean's Edge - This web page from SeashellGuide.com provides photographs and descriptions of shells and other marine life that are commonly found along the Atlantic shore.
  • CZ-Tip - Learn What Lurks in a Massachusetts Tide Pool - See this tip to learn more about strange marine organisms and the creative characteristics that allow them to survive this harsh intertidal environment, along with a guide to destinations where you can make your own tide pool discoveries.

Plants and Seaweeds

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