Eelgrass Sea Hares: Unusual Algae Eaters

Seagriculture USA 2024

A​t Elkhorn Slough, a large winding estuary off Monterey Bay, the eelgrass beds form a habitat for a diverse community of animals and plant life, which includes sea otters, Dungeness crabs, clams, skeleton shrimp, and various fish. And critical to this ecosystem are the algae-eating eelgrass sea hares.

Eelgrass sea hares are tiny aquatic slugs named for the bunny-like tentacles on top of their head. They can be found munching on the microscopic algae that grow on the surface of eelgrass, a type of marine seagrass. Also known as the Taylor’s Sea hare, these humble, zebra-striped slices of green jello are crucial to the health of their ecosystem.

They don’t eat the grass itself; instead, they help the meadows grow by clearing the way for sunlight to reach the plants, scraping algae from the blades of grass with their rows of tiny teeth. The seagrass, in turn, serves as a haven for the sea hares to lay their eggs, and offers protection from predators like crabs and fish.

Source: KQED/PBS San Francisco

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Seagriculture USA 2024
Contact Phil Ganz



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