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High Tide Level
Eastern Warm Temperate Zone

Graphic of the Tidal Zonesd on a rocky ocean shore

The High Tide Level is also called the Upper Barnacle Zone by some researchers, most notably Isobel Bennett and the late William John Dakin in their various well-known books titled "Australian Seashores".

At first sight a barnacle may appear to be another type of mollusc, something like a limpet. Instead of holding fast onto the rock with a strong foot, their shells are cemented onto the rock.

Barnacles are crustaceans, related to crabs and prawns. There are about seven different types of barnacle found along the south-eastern shores of Australia. They are all found at various tide levels. In some zonation classification systems the barnacles are considered to be key zonation indicator species.


Small photo of the Six-plated BarnacleThe highest occurring barnacle on the shore is the Six-plated Barnacle, Chthamalus antennatus. It is distinguished by the distinctive breaks (sutures) between the shell plates, and some surfaces weathering to a glistening white "Tooth enamel" appearance.

Small photo of the Honeycomb BarnacleIt often occurs with another barnacle, the smaller four-plated Honeycomb Barnacle, Chamaesipho tasmanica. Sometimes they are difficult to tell apart if they are crowded together or are weathered. The small Honeycomb Barnacle may be very common to abundant over the mid to upper intertidal areas of many rocky shores. On some shores there may be so many of these barnacles, that the rock surface is white over very large areas. The pattern formed by these tight-fitted barnacles gives the common name, "Honeycomb" barnacle.

Decapod Crabs

There are two other very common swift-footed crustaceans that live on the high shore. They sometimes roam above the highest tide levels. They are members of the Decapod crab group. Decapod means ten limbs, where there are eight walking or swimming legs and two feeding claws called chelae.

Small photo of the Variegated Shore Crab.The most common crab is the Variegated Shore Crab, Leptograpsus variegatus. Its other common name is "steelback" which well describes its colour and pattern. This abundant, conspicuous, swift crab is found on most non-tropical rocky shores.

Small photo of the Smooth Shore CrabAnother, not quite so common crab is Smooth Shore Crab, Cyclograpsus audouinii. It occurs on the open coast at all tide levels and below, usually sheltering under rocks on rocky or silt bottoms. It also occurs commonly in estuaries. There is great colour variation, but its lack of shell markings (smooth) and very rounded claws (cyclo = round; grapsus = claws) make it distinctive.


An unusual mollusc also lives at these highest tide levels. Unlike the Noddiwinks, it doesn't have an operculum door to keep in the scarce moisture. It must clamp itself down onto the rock to conserve moisture.

Small photo of Petterd's LimpetThe limpet which lives at these high shore levels is Petterd's Limpet, Notoacmea petterdii. It is often overlooked and missed by an inexperienced observer. Although I knew this limpet was common. The books told me so. It took me months to find one with very careful searching. When I finally found one, I soon realised that this small brown-coloured limpet is quite widespread and common. It is an excellently camouflaged mollusc. Petterd's Limpet may be found commonly on exposed vertical rock faces.

As we walk further down the Eastern Warm Temperate Zone shore we now reach the Mid Tide Level.


Bennett, I. (1987) W.J. Dakin's classic study: Australian Seashores. Angus & Robertson, Sydney.

Davey, K. (1998) A Photographic Guide to Seashore Life of Australia. New Holland, Sydney.

Edgar, G.J. (1997) Australian Marine Life: the plants and animals of temperate waters. Reed Books, Kew.

Jones, D. & Morgan, G. (1994) A Field Guide to Crustaceans of Australian Waters. Reed, Chatswood.

Quinn, G.P., Wescott, G.C. & Synnot, R.N. (1992) Life on the Rocky Shores of South-Eastern Australia: an illustrated field guide. Victorian National Parks Association, Melbourne.

Marine Research Group of Victoria (1984) Coastal Invertebrates of Victoria: an atlas of selected species. Museum of Victoria, Melbourne.

Macpherson, J.H. & Gabriel, C.J. (1962) Marine Molluscs of Victoria. Melbourne University Press & The National Museum of Victoria.

Shepherd, S.A. & Thomas, I.M. (1982) Marine Invertebrates of Victoria, Pt. 1. South Australian Government Printer, Adelaide.

Underwood, A.J. & Chapman, M.G. (1993) Seashores: a beachcomber's guide. New South Wales University Press, Sydney.

Wilson, B.R. & Gillett, K. (1979) A field guide to Australian Shells: Prosobranch Gastropods. A.H. & A.W. Reed, Sydney.

Womersley, H.B.S. (1987) The Marine Benthic Flora of Southern Australia. pt. 1 , South Australian Government Printer, Adelaide.

Tidal Levels

Splash-Fringe Level
The Tidal Zone
High-Tide level
Mid-Tide Level
Low-Tide Level
Low fringe Level
Marine Zone

Home Page
Rocky Shores
Tidal Levels
Intertidal Zonation
Environmental Factors
Biological Factors
Feeding Relationships




photo of Keith DaveyLife on Australian Seashores
by Keith Davey (C) 2000

Learning Consultant - Media
The University of Newcastle

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Scientific Consultant: Phil Colman
site created 01.01.98 : updated 01.04.2000