Bunnies of the sea!
They really shouldn't have bothered...
Sea Hares are several dozen species in the Aplysiidae family. They're marine sea slugs, with a tiny, internal shell, a round body and long rabbit ears.
Rhinophores and oral tentacles
Can you see the tiny eye below the rhinophore? Looks like a rocking-horse sneezing!
These are sensitive to touch and smell and happen to look like delicately rolled lettuce leaves. They say "you are what you eat", so maybe it's not a complete surprise to learn that Sea Hares are herbivores, munching on all sorts of algae. They certainly don't eat rabbits or hares, that's for sure.
Black Sea Hare and egg mass.
Or black pudding and noodles?
|Image: eclectic echoes|
Taylor's Sea Hare
Sea Hare on the run, er... swim
|Image: Adam Gerritsma|
Its pretty weird to see a great, big slug flapping its flabby fins through the sea, but there it is.
|Image: Baki Yokeş|
Sea Hares of the genus Petalifera are less than 8 cm (3 in) long, they swim by repeatedly coiling and uncoiling their body.
|Image: Baki Yokeş|
All this unsluglike flying and zooming around is probably a great way of finding new algal pastures once they've eaten everything in the immediate vicinity. It is, however, also a cool way of escaping predators. "Leaving the area" is pretty much what actual hares do as well, but many Sea Hares have another trick up their sleeve. Up their mantle, actually...
Clouds of ink! You know how octopods squirt out a load of ink and disappear amid the confusion with remarkable speed like a ninja with a smoke bomb? Sea Hares do that! Only without disappearing amid the confusion. They just kind of sit there. Like a slug.
In the case of the Sea Hare it looks like they can do a bit of chemical jiggery-pokery to make that ink deter predators. At least one has been found to be a strong crab deterrent, so it isn't actually a visual thing.
Oh, and at least one Sea Hare is incredibly poisonous. Aplysia gigantea comes from Australia (of course), and has been known to kill dogs who lick it. Curiosity killed the dog, it seems. Wait... what's that noise? Is that the sound of a thousand land hares cheering their aquatic namesakes onward? Have at you, carnivore!
These poisonous Sea Hares are dangerous even when they wash up on shore, whereupon local Australian ragamuffins and whippersnappers call them "beach blobbies". You can see why...
|Image: m. s. coleman|
Most ineffective cannon ball, ever
Of course, that isn't what they want. Want they really want is...
Sea Hares are hermaphrodite, but due to the position of their sexual organs they can't make a one on one sperm swap. They can, however, line themselves up into an obscene conga line where each one simultaneously acts as a male for the one in front, and a female for the one behind. "Liberated", I think they call it.
Also they have their penis on the right hand side of their head. I don't want to be crude, so I won't say anything. Except that...
|Image: Castaway in Scotland|