Rock pooler discovers a stunning Rainbow Sea Slug in south Cornwall – marking only the fourth time the rare creature has been seen in the UK
- Vicky Barlow spotted the Rainbow Sea Slug under a rock covered in seaweed
- The rare species is usually seen off the coast of Spain, Portugal, and France
At first glance at the creature in these images, you’d be forgiven for mistaking it as the latest kids’ cartoon character.
But the creature is very much real, and was spotted by an eagle-eyed rock pooler in South Cornwall earlier this month.
Vicky Barlow, a volunteer with The Rock Pool Project, found the Rainbow Sea Slug under a heavy rock that was covered in seaweed.
‘Once delicately placed in a pot to view, the beautiful animal unfurled and revealed itself in full technicolour,’ she said.
The sighting marks only the fourth time the rare creature has been seen in the UK.
At first glance at the creature in these images, you’d be forgiven for mistaking it as the latest popular cartoon character. But the creature is very much real, and was spotted by an eagle-eyed rock pooler in South Cornwall earlier this month
Vicky Barlow, a volunteer with The Rock Pool Project, spotted the Rainbow Sea Slug under a heavy rock that was covered in seaweed
‘World’s loneliest albatross’ and a rare sea slug are among the most incredible wildlife sightings off the UK in 2022 – READ MORE
Babakina anadoni is a colourful species of sea slug
Ms Barlow found the Rainbow Sea Slug in a rock pool in Falmouth by chance, having already spotted a large Edible Crab, a Green Sea Urchin and multiple Cushion Stars in the area.
‘When you have been rock pooling as much as I have been in the last year, you start to get an eye for which rocks are most likely to have something interesting underneath,’ she explained.
‘The last rock I picked up was exactly one of these.
‘It was quite a large, heavy rock, covered in various seaweeds, and once lifted something extremely bright and unusual caught my eye.
‘Having been reading up on nudibranchs a lot recently I knew exactly what the colourful blob in front of me was!
‘The extremely rare Rainbow Sea Slug!’
As its name suggests, the Rainbow Sea Slug (or Babakina anadoni), is known for its bright colouring.
While it’s usually seen off the coast of Spain, Portugal, and France, it has been sighted just three times before in UK waters.
‘The first sighting was in August 2022 and there have been a handful of sightings since by divers and snorkelers since but, as far as we can tell, this is the first time this species has been found by a rock pooler in the UK!’ Ms Barlow said.
Having discovered the Rainbow Sea Slug, Ms Barlow gathered her fellow ‘nudibranch enthusiasts’ to observe the rare creature.
As its name suggests, the Rainbow Sea Slug (or Babakina anadoni), is known for its bright colouring
‘We all watched the creature navigate the pot in complete awe,’ she said.
‘Like most nudibranchs it had quite the personality, rearing up to get a better look at its surroundings, and using its tentacle-like “cerata” along its back to make itself appear bigger if one of our hands got too close.’
The team took several photos and videos of the creature, before placing it back in the rock pool.
‘It is absolutely amazing what you can find on our rocky shores, and today was a perfect example of the incredible wildlife we have on our doorstep here in Cornwall,’ Ms Barlow added.
WHAT ARE SEA SPIDERS?
Sea spiders are marine arthropods which are distantly related to arachnids.
Like regular spiders, however, they also typically have eight main appendages – through which they also take in oxygen by means of diffusion.
They number in the region of 1,300 individual species.
Sea spiders range in size from just a few millimetres across to ones that span as much as 20 inches (50 centimetres).
They are cosmopolitan – meaning they live all across the globe – and can survive in both marine and estuarine environments.
While most commonly spotted in shallow waters, they can also live as deep as 23,000 feet (7,000 metres) underwater.
Sea spiders are carnivorous and either predatory or parasitic.
They will generally eat other creatures like sponges, moss animals and worms – while some take bites from, but do not completely kill, molluscs.
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