As a result of climate change, warm tropical ocean currents are expected to strengthen and persist for longer periods in southern coastal area normally dominated by cooler waters. The consequent increases in water temperature are likely to result in unfavourable growing conditions for cool water algae species, causing a loss of seaweed in some areas.

All marine snails (molluscs) are under increasing stress due to ocean acidification which can weaken their calcium carbonate shells and reduce body condition. This makes them more prone to disease, predation and low reproduction. Increasing water temperature as a result of climate change will likely affect their abundance and cause a southward shift in their distribution.

Whales are particularly vulnerable to coastal pollution and human modifications of coastal environments due to their use of shallow waters during calving. They may alter their feeding behaviour, migration and breeding grounds in response to changes in ocean currents, temperatures and increasing human modification of shallow-water coastal areas.

Click on the images below to learn more about the species, their phenophase behaviours, and how to identify them, so you can contribute your ClimateWatch observations.

A type of marine snail (mollusc) with a distinctive round or globe-shaped shell, black or dark grey in colour. The older snails will sometime have a white patch at the flattened tip (apex) of the spirals (whorls) due to weathering. Nerites have a white aperture (where the snail comes out) with a black rim and they usually have a black operculum (shell door or lid) which is sometimes spotted orange.
Its pear-shaped float (bottle) is a translucent blue, with a wrinkled top which might be tinged with green or pink. It has a single main tentacle, and many shorter tentacles, all of which are blue and hang from its float. It is not a single animal but rather a colony of four kinds of individuals known as polyps. Each polyp has its own function: one is the float, another captures food, another digests the food, and another is responsible for reproduction. Size Float is 2 – 15 cm long, and tentacles up to 10 m.
It has a blue float made of a flat, circular disc with many gas-filled tubes which keep it afloat. The disc is surrounded by tiny blue tentacles. The Blue Button is, in fact, a colony made up of different types of polyps, including some that are specialised for catching food, defense, or reproduction. Size Its disc is up to 2.5 cm across.
Small marine snails (molluscs), often called Australwinks. They are light blue to grey in colour and have a smooth shell that spirals up to a light brown to reddish-brown sharp tip (apex). Size 10 - 15 mm
A very large brown seaweed (algae). It has dark brown leathery, strap-like branches (thallus). It attaches to the substrate by a large disc or conical-shaped holdfast. Usually there is a single leathery frond (stalk) from the holdfast, which divides into long segments or fronds. Its strong holdfast often pulls off pieces of granite during storms which can remain attached to the kelp when washed up on shore.
A type of sea squirt, an animal that forms large colonies as a dense mat over rocks which are highly visible at low tide. Its shape is squat and globular. It has a thick leathery outer layer called a ‘tunic’ which is often covered with brown or green algae. Cylindrical in shape with 2 openings called siphons for inhaling and exhaling water and feeding.
Elephant snails are a type of semi-rare solitary marine snail (mollusc) and look like a black slug with a small white, shield-like shell on their backs. Size 70 - 150 mm
Barnacles are small invertebrates that live inside hard circular or pyramid-like structures made from calcium-carbonate. They are distinguished by their size: they are taller than they are round and have similar shape to a volcano. They can be found singularly or in a group. Giant rock barnacles are the largest type of barnacle and are comprised of six large plates that are white to light green in colour, and have top to bottom (transverse) grooves on them. They have a distinctive bright blue body (mantle) inside. Barnacle larva are free swimming and live in the plankton layer and when they are old enough they return to the rocky shores where they find a spot and cement their heads to the rock and then grow their shell around their body. Size 30 - 60 mm height and 25 - 30 mm diameter.
Chelonia mydas Other names: Green Sea Turtle, Green Turtle, Tortue verte, Grinfala totel, Uga Vanua Gren Totel are found in tropical, subtropical and temperate regions of the world, including in Vanuatu. Their smooth shells are dark brown, grey or olive with lighter yellow to white undersides. Hatchlings are very dark in colour with white edges on their bodies and flippers. Once mature, they forage in shallow coastal waters, mainly eating seagrass and algae. Every 2-5 years they return to the beach where they hatched to nest. Distinctive features Gren Totel are the largest of the hard-shelled sea turtles, though their head is comparatively small. Their shells are smooth. Distinctive features are their serrated beak on the lower jaws and two large scales located between the eyes. Size These turtles are often over 1 m long and weigh up to 230 kg.    
Eretmochelys imbricata Hoksbil Totel are found in tropical, subtropical and temperate regions of the world, including several nesting areas in Vanuatu. The shell is olive-green or brown with reddish-brown, brown or black markings in a tortoiseshell pattern. The shell is domed and heart-shaped with overlapping scales. The hatchlings are brown to black above and lighter underneath. Distinctive features The Hoksbil Totel has a parrot-like beak and narrow head. Size Adult females weigh between 60 to 80 kg and have a mean curved carapace (hard upper shell) length of 82 cm, though this can grow up to 100 cm in length. Behaviour Movement Before maturing, they spend the first 5 to 10 years of their life drifting on ocean currents. After this, they settle and forage in tropical tidal and sub-tidal coral and rocky reef habitats. Diet Omnivorous but, in many areas, they prefer to eat sea sponges. Breeding Night-time nesters. They generally lay 3 to 5 clutches in a season. Each clutch contains around 130 to 160 eggs.
Dark grey to black on top and usually white on the belly. Humpbacks have very large, elongate pectoral fins, a small but prominent dorsal fin and a large, bushy blow (up to 5 m tall). The large fins, dark tail with white underneath, active breaching and tendency to “hump” their backs and raise their tail out of the water before diving, distinguish humpbacks from other whales. Size Adult humpbacks can reach a length of up to 15 m.
Dermochelys coriacea Leta Bak Totel are found in tropical and temperate regions of the world, with small numbers nesting in Vanuatu. The shell is made of soft leathery skin with seven ridges or keels. The colour is mostly black with differing amounts of pale spotting, including a pink spot on the heads of adults. It has paddle-like limbs that are clawless and black with white margins and pale spots. Hatchlings are predominantly black with white margins on their flippers and keels on the shell. Distinctive features The Leta Bak Totel has a shell that is a soft leathery skin with seven ridges or keels. It is the only sea turtle without a hard shell. It has no teeth and uses its sharp beak to catch food. Size The Leta Bak Totel grows up to 180 cm long and weighs up to 700 kg. Behaviour Movement Leta Bak Totels are highly active with individuals spending as little as 0.1% of the day resting. They are one of the deepest-diving marine animals and can move very fast. They are mostly found in open ocean. They follow their preferred prey into deeper water during the daytime and into shallower water at night. Adults can undertake long-distance migration between cold feeding waters and tropical or subtropical beaches where they hatch. Unlike other sea turtles, Leta Bak Totel do not always return to their hatching beach to nest. Diet Leta Bak Totel eat mostly jellyfish, but will also take other soft-bodied creatures. Its favourite food is the venomous Portuguese man-o-war jellyfish. Breeding They prefer to breed on beaches that face deep water and avoid locations protected by coral reefs. Mating occurs at sea and males never leave the water once they enter as hatchlings. Females mate every 2 to 3 years and can nest up to 10 times in a single nesting season. As many as 9 clutches are laid by a single female in a breeding season, spaced around 9 days apart. Clutch size is around 110 eggs.
Large solid marine snail (mollusc) with noticeable rounded spirals (whorls). Generally smooth but some individuals show 2 strongly developed rows of spines on the body; rown or dark green striped patterns on a lighter green/fawn background. They are fished commercially for human consumption. They are also prized bait for fisherman and can be locally fished out in some areas.
They have a transparent mushroom-shaped bell. Its reproductive organs form a conspicuous clover-like shape when viewed from above. Numerous fine thread-like tentacles hang from beneath the edge of the bell. The moon jelly is a favourite food of marine turtles.
Its species name banksii is after the English naturalist and botanist Sir Joseph Banks. A small, brown seaweed (algae) which resembles a beaded necklace. It has branches (thalli) which are made up of strings of hollow, water-filled, round or oval-shaped beads joined together by a short stalk. Each bead is covered in many pores, giving it a rough surface. It is attached to the substrate by a thin disc (holdfast). Size Fronds 10 – 30 cm long, beads 5 – 15 mm in diameter, and holdfast 3 – 10 mm across.
Mostly black in colour with a light grey saddle behind the dorsal fin and a distinct white oval shaped horizontal patch behind the eye. The belly, underside of the jaw, and underside of the tail are also white. Mature males have a tall triangular-shaped dorsal fin while females and juveniles have a smaller, more curved dorsal fin. Size Adults reach a length of 10 m, dorsal fin up to 1.8 m in height.
Palola viridis Palolo are found in tropical regions of Asia and the Pacific, including Vanuatu. Palolo are a type of segmented marine worm that grow up to 40 cm in length. Each segment of their bodies has paddlelike appendages with gills. The head of the worm has many sensory tentacles. Males are reddish-brown and females are bluish-green. They live in crevices and coral rubble. Size Up to 40 cm in length. Breeding During the breeding season, the worm breaks in half with the tail section carrying the eggs or sperm to the ocean surface. The tail section looks like an animal and has eyes and drifts on the waves in large, tangled masses of thousands of worms. The head section remains in the reef. Breeding occurs at least twice per year, at almost the same time annually and following a phase of the moon. There is a strong link between El Niño and the quantity of palolo. Strong El Niño tend to result in very low palolo harvests. More palolo seem to spawn in years of neutral El Niño. Diet Palolo are omnivores feeding on both invertebrate and algal material. They are also scavenger feeders.
A medium-sized marine snail (mollusc). They are grey or off-white in colour, with 5 - 6 distinctive ridges spiralling up towards a sharp tip (apex). Size 25 - 50 mm Field Guide Improve your identification skills. Download your Ribbed Top Shell guide here!
The name ‘right whale’ was given to them by early European whalers who thought they were the ‘right’ type of whale to hunt. Their slow moving nature made them easy targets and their blubber was of high quality. They also floated when dead, making them much easier to move to shore. Generally black with small patches of white on the belly and lacking a dorsal fin. They have a rounded head and short, spatula shaped flippers with a distinctive V shaped blow. Distinctive feature They have numerous, pale coloured callosities around the head.
A large jellyfish with a rounded bell shape that is clear or tinted brown or yellow. The bell has many obvious small white crystalline spots close to the surface that are evenly distributed. The tentacles are located in the centre of the bell, with 8 individual arms visible. Two sets of tentacles are visible: one is short, fleshy (cauliflower-like) and the other is longer, clear to white (rope-like) and extend beyond the shorter fleshy tentacles. The longer tentacles also have white spots on their ends.
They are called Surf Barnacles because they prefer to live in areas of medium to high energy wave action. Small invertebrates that live inside hard circular or pyramid-like structures made from calcium-carbonate. They have eight main side plates, surrounded by many smaller ones, giving them a scaly appearance and are usually grey with a greenish tinge. Size 20 mm high, 25-30 mm diameter. Field Guide Improve your identification skills. Download your Surf Barnacle guide here!
A small green seaweed. It has dark round, forked fronds (branches) with a fuzzy appearance and a velvety or sponged texture. Size Up to 30 cm long. Field Guide Improve your identification skills. Download your Velvet Weed guide here!
Medium marine snails (molluscs) that float around in the open ocean. They have a purple shell that lightens in colour as you move towards the flattened top of the shell. The shell itself is very light weight and they have no operculum (lid). Their flesh is a dark purple or sometime black. They float around the open oceans upside down, attached to a raft of mucus bubbles that they make. Size Up to 30 mm
Flower-like invertebrate that has many long tentacles surrounding a central mouthpart which is attached to a hard surface. These specialised fighting tentacles come from the acontia, which appear as white spots on the top of the column. At low tide or when disturbed, the tentacles retract and the anemone looks like a round blob of jelly. They range in colour from bright red, reddish-brown to dark purple. Their tentacles contain hundreds of stinging cells called ‘nematocysts’ which the anemone uses to sting and immobilize their prey, and to do battle with other unrelated anemones. These are the same cells that give Blue Bottles their sting although most anemone species cannot penetrate human skin.