Sea Hares and Tide Pools

September 24, 2000
From: Will Akers

I am 10 years old and looking for information on Sea Hares and especially how they react to different waters/tides and temperatures in a tide pool setting. I am doing a report in my 5th grade class and cannot find this information. Your information and pictures in Sea Slug Forum have been very helpful otherwise...
thank you...
Will Akers

Akers, W., 2000 (Sep 24) Sea Hares and Tide Pools. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

Dear Will,
Although we often find Sea Hares in the intertidal region they are not really well adapted for life there. They can survive being exposed at low tide if they are in the shade and kept damp, by being covered with sea weeds. Apparently as long as their skin is damp they can still breathe. However they can't live long like this and will die in a few hours or if caught exposed to the sun where they dry out. Sometimes after storms large numbers are found washed up on beaches at low tide where they die before the tide returns.

Basically all slugs are snails that have lost their shells. Snails that live in the intertidal region often have special adaptations to stops them drying out and getting overheated. For exmaple, many snails have an operculum or door which closes tightly to prevent water loss at low tide. One special example are the periwinkle snails (Littorinidae) which live high on the shore and are often uncovered for 10 days or more on hot rocks. They survive by sealing their shells to the rocks with a sticky mucus and then they withdraw their foot further into the shell so it is no longer in contact with the hot rock.

When you are a slug unfortunately, there is no way to stop drying out if you are caught uncovered at low tide. If you look at the Sea Hare shell Page you will see it is just a flat plate hidden in the skin. Certainly no use for protection. It is a bit like the few bones at the base of our backbone called the coccyx. They are all that is left of our tail, but not much use for swinging through the trees.

Also have a look at the pages on What is a Slug? and How snails became slugs.

Good Luck with you report,
Bill Rudman.

Rudman, W.B., 2000 (Sep 24). Comment on Sea Hares and Tide Pools by Will Akers. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

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