Attack of the sea hares

Navarre Beach faced an invasion last month!

The invaders slithered along the depths, antenna-like appendages quivering as they sought their prey. Thousands of their frilled and speckled bodies moved along the white sandy bottom of Navarre Beach’s nearshore snorkel reef in rows like soldiers marching into battle.

To be honest, they are kind of cute.

They’re no alien invaders. They are sea hares!

These squishy, hand-sized slugs are actually a native species to our coastal community, and they are only one of many species frequently spotted by visitors to the reef.

So what’s the big commotion? Well, we’ve never seen this many at once. Most days you’re lucky to spot one or two, but thousands all at once is unheard of. And really cool.

Their scientific name is aplysia, a type of shell-less mollusk used frequently in scientific study. In addition to being kind of strange looking, these little guys also have a neat talent. If startled they will release a bloom of purple ink just like an octopus. Some people say it kind of smells like roses.

Adorable, harmless and floral scented: what’s not to love?

As to why they showed up in such large numbers, the best guess is food. Sea hares are algae eaters, and with seasonal blooms of June grass fueled by a long, warm summer, there is plenty of food to go around.

Though the mass of sea hares has since dissipated, folks may still be able to spot these intriguing critters sliding along Navarre’s reef.

Check out this video of the invasion caught by local diver Tazz Felde at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvFiZqdBlF.

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