Have you ever seen a Spotted Sea Hare before? I found this little guy in Biscayne Bay, Miami Beach, Florida. TO me, they look more like a hippopotamus or a walrus, but I’m not the one that named them to begin with 🙂
In this video you’ll first see him squirt out dark purple ink to deter me from picking him up, and then you’ll get to see how cute they are once I pick him up! When disturbed, sea hares release ink from their ink glands, providing a fluid, smoke-like toxic screen, adversely affecting their predators’ olfactory senses while acting as a powerful deterrent. The ink color is based on the pigments in the seaweed that they consume. This ink was used by Native Americans to dye clothing!
Their common name “sea hare” is a direct translation from Latin “lepus marinus” (marine rabbit), as the animal’s existence was known back in Roman times. The name derives from their body shape and from the two long rhinophores that project upwards from their heads and that somewhat resemble the ears of a rabbit.
Sea hares are herbivorous, and are found in shallow water. Sea hares have an extremely good sense of smell; they can follow even the faintest scent using their rhinophores, which are extremely sensitive chemoreceptors. Their body color corresponds with the color of the seaweed they eat. This camouflages them from predators in their typical environments.
Interesting facts about Spotted Sea Hares:
1. Large wing-like flaps protect the gills and some sea hares use these for swimming.
2. The two tentacle-like extensions on the top of the head are called rhinophores, (which means nose-bearing), and are used for detecting chemicals.
3. Sea hares are hermaphroditic, each animal is both male and female!
4. A single sea hare can lay up to 500 million eggs during one breeding season.
5. Biomedical researchers use the sea hare’s very simple nervous system as a model for other more complicated species. The neurophysiology of sea hares is being used in cancer research, and sea hare sex hormones are providing clues to understanding more about human development.