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Phylum Mollusca > Class Gastropoda > sea slugs > Order Anaspidea
Hairy sea hare
Bursatella leachii
Family Aplysiidae
updated Sep 12
if you learn only 3 things about them ...
Sea hares may secrete a purple dye. But don't tease them to make them do this.
Although they can be quite large, they are well camouflaged. Watch your step!
Sea hares have very specialised diets and should not be kept in home aquariums.

Where seen? This hirsute sea hare is sometimes seen on our Northern shores among seagrasses and seaweeds. Sometimes many are seen everywhere, then they are no longer seen for many months. Sometimes, they are seen gathered together, densely packed in large numbers, possibly mating? Or simply gathering around a good source of food?

Features: 6-12cm. Body long, fleshy with a short triangular tail which has white bars. It is covered with lots of flat branching finger-like projections. It has two pairs of tentacles, oral tentacles and rhinophores about the same size (you have to look carefully among the hairy bits to distinguish the tentacles). The parapodia appears to be a hole in the centre of the body, rather than 'wings' or flaps as in other large sea hares. It may come in different shades of brown, sometimes bluish, sometimes with orangey 'hairs', usually with bright blue spots which are ringed in brown. It is usually well camouflaged and blends in perfectly with among seaweeds and seagrasses. Like some other sea hares, it produces a purple ink when disturbed.

Sometimes mistaken for the Furry sea hare (Stylocheilus sp.). More on how to tell apart hairy slugs and snails.

What does it eat? It eats cyanobacteria, in particular, the mat-forming Lyngbya majuscula, which was formerly known as the filamentous blue-green alga Microcoleus lyngbyaceus. Apparently, Bursatella sea hares swallow large amounts of sand in the process of eating, somewhat like earthworms do.

Changi, May 05

Two pairs of tubular tentacles

Short triangular 'tail' with white bars.

Eggs in top right corner?
Pulau Sekudu, Feb 07

Releases purple ink when disturbed.
Pulau Sekudu, May 04

Projections flat branching, not spiny.
Blue spots but no fine lines.

Hairy sea hares on Singapore shores

Photos of Hairy sea hares for free download from wildsingapore flickr

Distribution in Singapore on this wildsingapore flickr map

When out of water, looks like a blob.
Changi, May 09

Pale ones sometimes seen.
Changi, May 09

Comes in a variety of shades.
Chek Jawa, Feb 07

Changi, May 11
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on his blog.

Changi, Sep 10
Photo shared by Neo Mei Lin on her blog.

Changi, Feb 02

Pulau Ubin, Dec 09
Photo shared by James Koh on his blog.

Pulau Tekukor, May 10
Photo shared by James Koh on his blog.

Links References
  • Tan Siong Kiat and Henrietta P. M. Woo, 2010 Preliminary Checklist of The Molluscs of Singapore (pdf), Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, National University of Singapore.
  • Debelius, Helmut, 2001. Nudibranchs and Sea Snails: Indo-Pacific Field Guide IKAN-Unterwasserachiv, Frankfurt. 321 pp.
  • Wells, Fred E. and Clayton W. Bryce. 2000. Slugs of Western Australia: A guide to the species from the Indian to West Pacific Oceans. Western Australian Museum. 184 pp.
  • Coleman, Neville. 2001. 1001 Nudibranchs: Catalogue of Indo-Pacific Sea Slugs. Neville Coleman's Underwater Geographic Pty Ltd, Australia.144pp.
  • Humann, Paul and Ned Deloach. 2010. Reef Creature Identification: Tropical Pacific New World Publications. 497pp.
  • Kuiter, Rudie H and Helmut Debelius. 2009. World Atlas of Marine Fauna. IKAN-Unterwasserachiv. 723pp.
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