Spotted Sea Hares

I am in awe of the diversity and just plain bizarro nature of many of the ocean animals easily (and some not so easily) observed on any given day.  Went for a short walk along the bayfront earlier this week and discovered a couple of squishy-looking somethings caught in the tide line.   After a bit of research, which included asking a very knowledgeable source “what the heck is that”  I can safely say these animals are spotted sea hares.

Sea Hare

Sea Hare

Sea hares are in the mollusk family – related to snails, slugs and nudibranchs.  That’s the simple explanation. Why they are called hares, however, remains a mystery.  One story says when first observed, the animal reminded that person of a hare.  Say what?  Of course there’s also the story that says early sailors mistook manatees for mermaids…so I’m thinking that possibly a lot of rum was involved in both observations.

These animals really look more like a slug than a rabbit.  Their shell..if they have one, is internal and not fully developed.  Wing-like extensions along the foot propel the sea hare through the water as it swims. It feeds on algae.

In the spring, the hermaphroditic sea hares move into the shallow bay waters to breed, deposit their eggs in the seaweed and grasses, and then die.  There were two sea hares washed up on the bayfront after a few days of warm weather..so I’m guessing this may be an early sign of spring. Life is sometimes weird…but good.

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