Sea Hares

Source: NOAA NMFS/WeirdFins - January 30, 2018 in Radio

Sea Hares
Photo: Claire Fackler/CINMS/NOAA

Well, hi! Weird Gramma, here, and this is “WeirdFins,” all about strange stuff in the sea, and brought to you by NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Got a question here from Logan, in Metairie, Louisiana, who asks if it’s true that there’s a kind of sea slug that weighs as much as a cocker spaniel.

Hoo, yes, Logan! The California sea hare is one big dude! It’s a mollusc, so it’s related to snails and clams. But its dinky little shell is inside the big, slippery body, so a sea hare can’t pull back into its shell for protection. It’s called a sea hare because it has two tentacles on its head that look like rabbit ears. Sea hares get to 30 pounds and 16 inches long, and you may have seen these godzillas in shallow water, munching on sea grass or seaweed. And if they eat red algae, the slugs can squirt out a big cloud of purple ink and escape from a fish eyeing them for its dinner. Is this not cool? Don’t you wish you could shoot out a purple cloud and escape when your mom puts liver casserole on the dinner table?

Can you eat sea hares? Well, I haven’t met anyone who has tried them, although people elsewhere in the world eat other kinds of sea slugs, like the big orange one found off Japan. But they’re useful anyway because they have really big nerve cells that make them ideal for medical studies. Sea hares even have their own research center down in Florida, at the University of Miami!

Gotta warn you, though: Sea hares are hard to keep in captivity so make sure that any sea hares you see at the shore stay there. If you try to bring one home, you’ll end up with a big, dead blob, a stinky bucket of slime, and a really angry mom.

WeirdFins is brought to you by NOAA Fisheries. You can learn more about sea hares on NOAA Web sites, www.noaa.gov, using the search term “sea hares”.

Print article