Rocky shore (New Zealand)

Where can I find information about the rocky shore?

Image: Rock pool shells by Lillian on Flickr.

Entry last updated: 01/04/20


This rocky shore is a unique part of New Zealand's coastline, and is a habitat which is home to many creatures. The rocky shore is also at risk from human-made problems like climate change, pollution and loss of habitat.

Rocky shore life

Here is a list of some of the creatures you might find on the rocky shore:

Crustaceans: a group of animals that lots of different species belong to, such as crabs, crayfish (kōura), lobsters and barnacles.

Echinoderms: a group of animals that lots of different species belong to, such as starfish and sea cucumbers. Sea urchins/kina are echinoderms, though because they do have a shell they are also shellfish.

Sea Slugs: live in rock pools. They are often grouped with shellfish even though they have no shell.

Shellfish: such as pāua, pipi, cockles (tuangi), tuatua, mussels (kuku or kūtai), oysters (tio), catseyes (pūpū), mud snails (whetiko).

The National Aquarium of New Zealand

This is a good website to use to find information about rocky shore animals. Here you can learn a few basic scientific facts, and then you can look at other websites for more detailed information.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara has heaps of information about life in and around the ocean.

  1. From the home page, scroll down to the list of Sections near the bottom of the page
  2. Then, click on Earth, Sea and Sky
  3. Now choose Sea Life. Lots of these creatures live in deeper ocean, but you will find some here that live on the rocky shore, like crustaceans, shellfish, starfish, and don't forget plants like seaweed!

Lots of birds also make their home around the sea shore. Go back to the page Earth, Sea and Sky and click on Birds of Sea and Shore. You can also use Te Ara to look for specific creatures by using the name of the creature as your keyword in the search bar.

Tips: We like Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand because it comes from a government organisation, so the information will be reliable. You can tell from their web address, they have a .govt in the address.

Otago University Marine Studies Centre

This page has lots of cool resources you can download.

  1. Under the heading Learn with us click on Check out our education resources.
  2. Then select Resources to download.
  3. Scroll down the list and look for anything that says 'rocky shore' - there's heaps! There are specific fact sheets for the rocky shore in both the North and South Islands of New Zealand

On the Education resources page, there is also a link to a marine life database. The word marine means 'relating to, or found in the sea' so marine life is another name for sea life. This marine life database is great for finding out about marine animals and plants.

  1. Click on Search by Habitat then Rocky shore intertidal for a list of all the different creatures you can find on the shore.
  2. Click on each picture for more facts.
Tips: We like this website because it comes from Otago University, so the information will be well researched and reliable. You can tell that this is a website from an educational organisation because it has .ac in the web address.

How Stuff Works

This website has a section about animals which is powered by the Animal Planet channel. This is a great place to look to find out how different animals work, including those who live on the rocky shore.

  • Use the search bar to look for names of specific animals, such as starfish.
  • Or have a look at their list of Marine Life which includes jellyfish, crustaceans and more.
Tips: This is not a New Zealand website so the information will not be specific to New Zealand. However, it is still good general information about animals. Websites with .com in the web address can have good information but you need to assess how reliable it is. Look for the About link if you can find one, this will tell you more about the company's mission and values.

Habitat and ecology of the rocky shore

A habitat is the home or environment of an organism (like a plant or an animal). Ecology is a part of biology that studies how plants and animals interact with each other and their habitat. There are lots of different habitats on the rocky shore. These can be broken up into different zones where different plants and animals live.

These zones are:

The splash zone, or supratidal zone: this is the area above the tide line that still gets splashed by waves, but isn't underwater.

Intertidal zone: Which is divided into the high tide zone, the middle tide zone, and the low tide zone.

Subtidal zone: This is the area that is always covered by water.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Here is heaps of great information about the habitat and ecology of the rocky shore.

  1. From the home page, scroll down to Sections then choose Earth, Sea and Sky
  2. Next choose Marine Environments
  3. Then Coastal shoreline.

Here you can find out about New Zealand’s coastlines, including the rocky shore. Click on Read the Full Story for more information about the rocky coast, including rock pools.

Remember you can also click on Images and Media, where you can find pictures like this very helpful diagram Zones of a rocky shore, with some of the animals and plants you can find in each zone.

Science Learn - Home for a crab

This is a really cool interactive game that will teach you about the ideal habitat for a crab. You can learn about different animals that live near crabs, the kind of water a crab likes, and heaps more.

Rocky Shore Habitat - MarBEF Marine Biodiversity Wiki

For a really detailed look at the habitat of the Rocky Shore, check out MarBEF's wiki about the rocky shore habitat. MarBEF is a network of European marine institutes, so the information will not be specific for New Zealand. However, the information about rocky shores in general is very good.

This is a great website to expand your knowledge about rocky shore zones, adaptations of living things on the rocky shore, and there is a great little list why are rocky shores important.

Human impact and conservation

Humans impact the habitat of the rocky shore in different ways, including pollution, climate change, and destruction of habitat. However, there are ways to conserve the rocky shore to try and stop the bad effects that humans have on the natural environment.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

There is plenty of information about conservation on Te Ara.

  1. From the homepage, go to Earth, Sea and Sky
  2. Then click on Ocean Study and Conservation. In this section there is a story about Marine Conservation which is a good introduction to some of the laws that protect the marine environment. Check out page 6 - Pollution.
Tips: Remember that 'marine' means the habitat from the shore and right out into the ocean, so there will be information about the habitat and animals that live in much deeper water too!

Maritime New Zealand

This is the website of the government organisation responsible for the protection of New Zealand's marine habitat. Maritime New Zealand has an Information for Schools page where students can find out about protecting our environment, what kinds of pollution hurt our waters, what laws there are in place to help, and how you can get involved.

  1. From the homepage, click on Public Info
  2. Now choose Environment. Here you can find about the impact of oil on our environment, and how New Zealand responds to oil spills in our waters.

New Zealand Ministry for the Environment

Also known as the MFE, the New Zealand Ministry for the Environment has a page for kids about the causes of marine pollution, and how you can help.

Department of Conservation

Also known as DOC, the Department of Conservation is the government agency that looks after New Zealand Aotearoa's natural environment.

  1. To find information about the conservation work they do, click on Nature at the top of the page
  2. Then choose Habitats
  3. And then Marine.
Tips: These websites (Te Ara, Maritime New Zealand, Ministry for the Environment, DOC) are from government organisations. We like sites like this because they’re reliable. You can tell because of their web address – they have a .govt in their web address. They’re also New Zealand sites, so relevant for us.

Sustainable Coastlines

Here is another website to look at for info about reducing pollution that goes into the sea. Click on 'Education' to find out more about marine pollution.

Tips: Websites that have .org or .net in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the ‘about’ link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the organisation’s mission and values are.


There are some great books about the rocky shore - check out your local public or school library to see what they have.

Some recommended titles are:

SCIS no: 1832731
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