Fantastic discovery today while kayaking in the Elkhorn Slough. We found an  enormous  California brown sea hare, Aplysia californica, a type of marine  slug in the phylum mollusca. Enjoying a hermaphroditic life style, this fascinating guy or girl as the case may be emitted a mildly toxic purple dye as I scooped it up and placed  it on  my spray skirt.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA



Using their raspy tongue or file like structure known as a radula, sea hares scrap into their algae diet which later  aids in the pigmentation of their ink. Why do sea hares as well as their relatives, octopus and squid emit a dye? Perhaps the cloud of purple confuses or startles a predator or serves as a screen or decoy. Possessing some of the largest nerve cells in the animal kingdom, sea hares have been used in studies on memory and learning.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy group of kayakers though a bit startled, politely watched as I rolled myself face first into the sand while still cradling the sea hare in my arms. Covered with purple dye from head to toe, I do think they realized what a special find we had!

Join the naturalist of Blue Water Ventures as we explore Central California, Baja, Belize, Tonga and beyond!