The image at left shows a California sea hare (Aplysia californica), a type of sea slug, inking. Looking a little like a rabbit, sea hares are a common treasure in Santa Barbara’s Coal Oil Point tidepools. They can get up to 16 pounds but are usually more like three to four pounds in the lower pools. Although these slugs appear to be just a big blob, they have a hidden trick — beautiful purple ink that can be released from a gland in their mantle cavity if you reach inside the skin flaps on the top and tickle them. In nature, this acts as a smoke screen (similar to an octopus’ ink). California sea hares are herbivorous, with a diet consisting primarily of red and brown seaweed, which gives the animal its typically dark coloration.
(Image credit: Genny Anderson, Santa Barbara City College)