A well-known sight along the beaches, in inter-tidal rocky pools, and in the hands of fishermen is redbait Pyura stolonifera. Although recognized on sight, many people may not know very much about this common animal. Redbait is a sea squirt which lives in intertidal rocky shores and subtidally down to 10 m deep. Sea squirts get their name for having the tendency to squirt a stream of water when they are touched when exposed above the water line during low tide. Redbait is not a colonial animal, as many smaller ascidians are, though they will form large aggregations on rocks, or boulder-like masses on the seafloor. Each individual averages 15 cm in height, but some can grow as large as a rugby ball!
The orange-red flesh of this sea squirt is used extensively by anglers as bait – hence the common name redbait. The flesh of redbait has a particularly strong and unpleasant smell, and fishermen have been known to crush the sweet aromatic leaves of Coleonema album in their hands to get rid of the stink of redbait. Coleonema album is more commonly known as ‘aasbossie’ in Afrikaans, the English translation of which is ‘bait bush’.
Written by: Minke Witteveen
For further reading:
• Branch, G.M., Griffiths, C.L., Branch, M.L. and Beckley, L.E. 2010. Two Oceans: A guide to the marine life of southern Africa. Pp. 246. Random House Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
• Jodamus, N. 2003. Coleonema album. Accessed: 2016-02-14. URL: http://www.plantzafrica.com/plantcd/coleonalbum.htm