Taylor’s Sea Hare
Friday Harbor Marine Laboratories, University of Washington
San Juan Island, Washington
Archival Pigment Print
A careful examination of eelgrass (Zostera) leaves in shallow waters of the Northeast Pacific may reveal this sea slug, its translucent green body aligned along the length of the blades, its color and pattern blending with the color and venation of the grass. The Taylor’s sea hare spends its entire life on those leaves, grazing on the film of tiny organisms (mostly diatoms) on the leaf surfaces. It even lays its eggs on the grass blades, packaging hundreds of them in a flat, transparent mass. About a month after an egg mass is laid, tiny, crawling juveniles emerge and immediately begin feeding. With two generations per year and no planktonic larval stage, these animals can occur in great abundance in some eelgrass beds.