Fluffy swimming alien creature at Raffles Marina is a sea hare, a rare type of sea snail

Everyday you learn something new.

Fiona Tan | April 08, 2021, 03:23 PM

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Like seasons, sea hares come and go.

While common, these creatures will only make an appearance when their food source is in bloom.

On Wednesday, Apr. 7, one lucky Facebook user, Barbara Zuzarte, spotted a sea hare at Raffles Marina

She later shared her encounter in the Singapore Wildlife Sightings Facebook group.

Identifying a sea hare

While they might bear little resemblance to their land-dwelling fluffy namesakes, sea hares are believed to have gotten their names from their large front tentacles that resembles those of hares' ears. The front tentacles are located near the sea hare's mouth.

A sea hare is actually the sea's equivalent of a garden snail.

Photo courtesy of Jax Shells

A second pair of smaller tentacles called rhinophores, can be found above the sea hare's head.

The tentacles are rolled up tubes that have chemical sensors and, in some species, small eyes at the base.

To move around, sea hares flap their parapodia, wing-like flaps that cover the centre of their body. See how they swim here.

Most sea hares have a thin shell made of calcium that lies beneath its skin. In the video, the moving sea hare's shell can be seen between its flapping wings.

The shell encloses the creature's gills and its heart.

More sea hare informational tidbits

Both members of the gastropod family, sea hares are commonly mistaken for sea slugs. Visually, sea hares have two pairs of tentacles whereas most sea slugs have one.

Another way to tell them apart is through their gills. The external gills of sea slugs, when not retracted, are visible unlike those of sea hares which are located in their body.

The colour, and sometimes texture, of sea hares varies to match their diet of seaweed and algae.

Being hermaphrodites, sea hares have both male and female reproductive organs. The male organ appears on their necks, and the female opening is on their bodies.

Individual sea hares act as both male and female and sometimes form chains to mate.

Photo courtesy of Sea Slug Forum

Like the golden apple snail, sea hare eggs are pink. However, sea hares lay their eggs in strings or threads that resemble spaghetti.

Sea hares have short lifespans, typically that lasting less than a year. Mature adults usually pass on upon reproduction.

What to do when you see one

As Singaporeans increase their interaction with nature, wildlife sightings will be more common.

You might come across a sea hare should lady luck cast her gaze upon you.

Sea hares should be enjoyed from afar and left undisturbed, just like nature is best enjoyed untouched.

When threatened, some sea hares produce a purple dye that has been found to irritate some animals. Additionally, their body tissues and slime coating contain toxins.

Photo courtesy of Wild Singapore

Top photo courtesy of Barbara Zuzarte/FB