Stowaway? California sea slug somehow slipped into Oregon Coast Aquarium tank
NEWPORT, Ore. (KVAL) - A California sea hare, a variety of large sea slug usually found only off the coast of California and Mexico, showed up recently in Oregon - inside a sea water storage reservoir at the Oregon Coast Aquarium.
“I’m originally from Monterey, where sea hares are a common sight in bays, estuaries and rocky intertidal areas,” said Anna Welsh, an intern at the aquarium who spotted the mollusk. “But I was definitely surprised to see it here, outside of its range.”
The discovery in a tank of seawater from nearby Yaquina Bay is the northernmost observed point for the California sea hare.
“I have been diving, snorkeling, seining, and fishing here on the Oregon Coast for 20 years and have never seen one,” said Jim Burke, the aquarium’s director of animal husbandry. “My thought is that it arrived here in its free-floating larval state, most likely as a hitchhiker inside a boat’s bilge or fish hold.”
Seems like a longshot.
"In this scenario, the larval sea hare, released into Yaquina Bay from a boat, somehow managed to be sucked up the aquarium’s intake pump, passing through a 6-millimeter-gauge filter unscathed. Against astronomical odds, it found a haven in the predator-free reservoir, amid waving fronds of kelp and the resident clams, mussels, barnacles and other filter-feeders," the aquarium said in a press release.
“Every three months or so we have to put on our rubber boots and hip waders and clean out the mud that’s accumulated in the holding tanks,” said Meghan Holst, an aquarist at the aquarium. “It can be a chore, but it’s also an opportunity to collect specimens for our exhibits—animals that are essentially grown on site from larvae imported with the seawater. Sometimes we find incredible creatures hidden away in the tanks, like the sea hare.”
About sea hares
NAME: “Sea aare” comes from the sensory organs on its head (called “rhinopores”) that resemble a rabbit's ears.
SIZE: Sea hares can grow to more than a foot in length and weigh up to 5 pounds.
FOOD: They only eat plants, like algae.
INK: A sea hare may release a cloud of ink, much like an octopus.