Slug sightings creeping up

By Lindy Laird -
Sea hares washed up at Ngunguru, Northland. Photo / Supplied
Sea hares washed up at Ngunguru, Northland. Photo / Supplied

A spineless fellow with biggish ears and a fondness for squidgy environments has been hanging about around Whangarei coastal spots.

Department of Conservation marine ranger Marie Jordan said a number of sea hares, (Aplysia species), sometimes called sea slugs, had been turning up at Ngunguru and other estuaries in recent days.

They live on the seabed at varying depths but it is not unusual for them to be found washed up on the high-tide line.

Reasons this happens in some years might include raised water temperatures or changes in the food chain.

Sea hares are not toxic, commonly grow to about 30cm, have a typical slug-like feel on the outside, a soft internal shell, and a sucker foot underneath.

They flatten out when left to dry on the sand but, if still alive, will round out again when back in the water.

Sea hares browse on kelp on the seabed and their bodies are camouflaged by taking on the colour of their food. The ink they squirt out to deter predators might be reddish or purple, depending on that food.

They live in temperate and tropical waters worldwide and there are eight kinds in New Zealand waters.

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