Everyone's least favorite rabbit, or everyone's second-favorite rabbit-shaped sea slug (because obviously the sea bunny takes top prize) is back, and swarming in Southern California. Orange County has reported an alarming number of sea hares popping up on local beaches, from Redondo Beach to Corona del Mar.
People have been finding the animals lodged between rocks, slinking around tide pools and just generally hiding in places that you might not expect to see a 3-foot-long black slimy sea slug that looks strikingly like a rabbit.
And that's only if you're looking really closely. If you glance over it, it probably looks like a rock.
The AP reports that recent algal blooms have been one of the primary influences behind the sea hares' rise this season. The sea hares, also known scientifically as Aplysia vaccaria, feed on algae and kelp. So more algae means more sea hares, and probably bigger ones, too.
The sea hares that are invading coasts now come in all shapes and sizes. People report seeing ones around as big as a hand, but it's likely there are even bigger ones out there. The biggest sea hares ever recorded reach around 30 pounds, which is one hefty black-slime rabbit.
Normal-sized sea hares range from 6 to 10 pounds, which is still monstrously huge for a species of slug.
The sea hare is an unapologetically tubby slug, and for that we salute it.
Though it may sound gross, marine biologists are pretty pleased with the news. Biologist Julianne Steers told the AP that the black sea hare is "one of the most spectacular marine creatures we have along our coast," an opinion we respect but also respectfully disagree with because sea hares can never win a cute competition alongside their neighbors the sea otters, unless the judging panel was only comprised of sea hares or similar slugs.
More sea hares also means more of their strange egg sacs, which look just like instant ramen floating around in the ocean.
Photo Credit: Flickr, crawl_ray
Just another case of nature being extremely cool and extremely gross at the same time.