Aplysia dactylomela Click to enlarge image
Pair of Sea Hares, Aplysia dactylomela Image: Dr Isobel Bennett
© Australian Museum

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    dactylomela
    Genus
    Aplysia
    Family
    Aplysiidae
    Suborder
    Aplysiomorpha
    Order
    Opisthobranchia
    Class
    Gastropoda
    Phylum
    Mollusca
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    20 cm

There are several sea hare species in the Sydney region. Sometimes reaching 20 cm, these large sea slugs may be difficult to spot at first as they are well camouflaged.

Identification

Sea hares have a soft body, a small internal shell and large 'wings' or parapodia, which can be used for swimming. Once found they are easily identified by the black rings and black lines on their large olive-green body.


Fotoware Image
This unusual looking animal is a marine invertebrate commonly known as a Sea hare or sea slug. When they are active they exhibt two ear like apendages on their head- hence name sea hare. They feed on seaweeds and other algae and are often found in rock pools and shallow marine or brackish environments.They are eaten by a range of fish and can squirt purple ink/dye as a defence mechanism.The hole you can see in this image acts a siphon for moving water into the mantle cavity. Image: -
© Australian Museum

Habitat

Sea hares live on intertidal rocky shores and in seagrass.

Distribution

Sea hares are found in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia.

Feeding and diet

Usually found in pools, sea hares are able to swim but prefer to glide over the rocks, feeding on algae with their rasping radula.

Other behaviours and adaptations

If threatened, sea hares release a purple dye that works as a smoke screen, enabling them to escape from predators.

The common name of sea hare refers to their large tentacles, which were thought to resemble the large ears of a hare.

Life history cycle

Sea hares live for about a year and form long chains during mating. In late summer they release their egg masses as long, yellow, spaghetti-like strings.


Aplysia dactylomela
Sea Hare, Aplysia dactylomela Image: Dr Isobel Bennett
© Australian Museum