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  • José H. Leal

Shell of the Week: The Ragged Sea Hare

Bursatella leachii pleii (Rang, 1828) reaches 80 mm (3.15 inches) in parts of its geographic range in the western Atlantic. The vernacular (common) name derives from the presence of characteristic branched papillae, which impart a “disheveled” aspect to the slug. The species lacks the parapodia (wing-like expansions) that are typical of the larger sea hares in the genus Aplysia. It also completely lacks a shell in the adult stage (a shell is present in the larva and juveniles). Given the proper conditions, the species is known to occur in high densities of up to 660 individuals per square meter (about 11 square feet). Ragged Sea Hares lay their eggs in clear, gelatinous strands that resemble thin spaghetti. [This species was covered in more detail a couple of weeks ago.]

The Ragged Sea Hare, Bursatella leachii pleii, from Sarasota. Photo by Ángel Valdés.


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