If you have a chance to explore an intertidal seagrass habitat, one of the more magical creatures to find is the sea hare.
Sea hares are a kind of sea slug; a mollusc that has evolved from a full snail shape to having no external shell as an adult. These creatures have wing-like flaps that cover the centre of their body. When in deeper water, some sea hares seem to flap these ‘wings’ to swim. Sometimes in shallow water, the centre of their body is revealed when they do this – this is when you can see their evolved ‘shell’ usually a beautiful but thin calcium patch just under the skin. This ‘shell’ hides the animal’s gills and heart.
Sea hares have tentacles at the front of their head near their mouth which they use to feel around for food. They also have rhinophores (they look like tiny horns) slightly further back on the head. Sea hares eat seaweed and algae – many adopt the colouration of the food they eat and often you need a sharp eye to find them in a seagrass meadow.
When alarmed, the sea hare will release a purple ink that is known to irritate other animals that might prey on them. Some studies indicate that dogs that have eaten sea hares died – the animals can be toxic depending on their preferred food and are not recommended for human consumption!
Kelab Alami conducts guided seagrass walks – for more information log on to kelabalami.weebly.com.