March 27, 2003
From: Sue Lennard
I am one of the women in the local paper's article about cleaning the beach of the Sea Hares in Geraldton, Western Australia ... great idea BUT way beyond the capacity of mere volunteers! Here are a few pix though, can anyone tell me what the difference is between the big black one and the smaller grey/khaki/yellow one (male/female; senior/junior; 2 different species ?)
The enclosed poster was put up on rubbish bins at local beaches.
Lennard, S. , 2003 (Mar 27) Poisonous Sea Hares . [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from http://www.seaslugforum.net/find/9506
It sad to think of Sea Hares as dead 'beach blobbies'. They are quite different when alive and happy. The only published information I know about this species alive is an article by Fred Wells I mention on the Aplysia gigantea Fact Sheet.
Concerning your question about the two colour 'forms'. It's definitely not a sexual difference as all Sea Hares are hermaphrodite, acting simultaneously as male and female during mating. They sometimes form spectacular mating chains, Fred Wells reporting one 17 animals long. Wells says the animals are uniform dark brown or black in colour, but clearly they can range from a very light brown to very dark brown-black. I would suspect the yellowish animal is just a light colour form of the same species.
This is surely an animal that is crying out for some scientific research. Perhaps your City Council should consider offering a research grant to a university student to undertake research on its biology and natural history, or the chemistry of its skin glands. It need only be a few thousand dollars. Most graduate students are desperate for funds to assist their research projects so this could be a way for your community to find out more about this troublesome visitor to your shores, and at the same time assisting in the education of a young student.
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