I had my first encounter with a slug called the Shaggy Sea Hare. Actually, there were 4 of them, crawling underwater about 200m up Salt River in Knysna.
The river, a mixture of fresh and sea water, means that these Shaggy Sea Hares are living in an estuarine habitat.
My first though was wonder at finding these weird ‘snails’. My cellphone’s camera doesn’t show it well but, on top, they were dull green with blobs of pinkish orange. Underneath, they were a bright green colour, like cartoon nuclear. When i lifted one into the palm of my kitchen glove (i was picking up litter), it circled into a ball. Notably, it never carried a hard shell on its back.
The lack of a shell should have been the giveaway but uneducated me had yet to contact clever Louw Claassens who runs the Knysna Baisin Project. But before i share her knowledge, here’s simple advice from Wonderopolis:
Larry: What’s a slug?
Moe: I don’t know.
Larry: A snail with a housing problem!
Louw Claassens identified them as a Shaggy Sea Hare (bursatella leachii). She said that, “They are pretty common in the estuary – particularly in Thesen Islands Marina.
These slugs are Opisthobranchs – which means they have a reduced or internal shell. In the case of the sea hare, the shell is internal. Because of this feature, they rely on alternative defence mechanisms – such as the excretion of purple dye.
The Shaggy Sea Hare occurs along most of our coast, from Cape Town all the way up the east coast. These guys are herbivorous and their eggs are long stringy masses – looks like two-minute noodles.”
Contacting Louw was worth it for that last description alone 🙂
How many of you have encountered the Shaggy Sea Hare? Do you have better photos to share on this page?
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