Mermaid’s Purse

I’d never seen one before but I knew what it was. I spotted this Mermaid’s Purse on the beach at Hoylake on the Wirral, that funny chunk of land between Liverpool and North Wales. It’s flanked on one side by the River Dee, and on the other by the River Mersey. At the far end, it faces the open sea, which had washed up this marine treasure.

Known as a Mermaid’s Purses, these are the egg cases of rays and sharks.They contain the embryonic raylet or sharklet (my name for them) and they can vary in size, shape and colour, and some contain more than one embryo.

This one is 10 centimetres long, and it’s the egg case of a Blonde Ray.

The first photo shows the case as I found it, crusty with dried sand. The second shows it after I’d hydrated it by soaking it in water for a couple of hours, which restored it’s sheen and plumped it up a bit. Of course, it was empty, the young ray having hatched out long ago, and there’s an opening along the top which was the escape hatch.

I don’t know if there’s any deep significance in finding a treasure like this, but it feels like a gift, finding this fascinating object on the beach, especially as I wasn’t beachcombing or looking for anything in particular at the time. And especially as I was able to ID it right away, probably plugging directly into some long-buried memory of having heard about these in my childhood.

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