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Extremely rare rainbow sea slug spotted in UK

Published: May 18, 2023 - 12:17
Updated: July 23, 2023 - 02:14
Extremely rare rainbow sea slug spotted in UK

Just yesterday, on the 15th of May 2023, an extremely rare rainbow sea slug made headlines on the BBC after being spotted southwest of the UK coast.

This marks the third official sighting of the species within British waters.

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vicky barlow sea slug uk
Photo: Vicky Barlow

The first sighting occurred just a year ago when a volunteer Seasearch diver, as part of the Wildlife Trust Seasearch initiative by Cornwall Wildlife Trust and the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust, was documenting the biodiversity around the Isles of Scilly. The second sighting happened by chance when a snorkeler was in the waters west of Cornwall. The third and final sighting took place in a rockpool in Falmouth, where a rockpool guide discovered a brightly colourful nudibranch hidden under the seaweed. This is the first nudibranch of its kind discovered in such a situation.

Babakina anhedonia is a rainbow-colored sea slug that forms part of the aeolid nudibranch family. It is known to occupy sub-tropical climates, especially in the Mediterranean Sea as it prefers warmer water. However, the specie is listed as extremely rare and has been totally recorded only a handful of times across Spain and parts along the South Atlantic coast. The gastropod measures just about 2cm long and is known for its rainbow kaleidoscope and irregular features.

Dr. Ben Holt, director of the Rock Pool Project, explained how the southwest coasts of the United Kingdom have experienced significant biodiversity changes with the warming of the planet, throughout the past five years. It is expected that in the near future, more of the Babakina anadoni will be spotted along the British coast as warmer water migrates toward the Arctic.

sea slug rainbow spotted in UK
Vicky Barlow Rainbow Sea Slug, UK

Seasearch is a project led and managed by the Marine Conservation Society with the aim of protecting and managing underwater life. They encourage divers and snorkelers interested in exploring the British and Irish coast to record and share information about marine biodiversity. Seasearch offers training courses for individuals interested in volunteering for their expeditions, catering to all academic levels. Anyone can volunteer, as the training provided educates interested candidates on the necessary information requirements. By simply becoming a Seasearch volunteer, anyone can make a difference in safeguarding our oceans for future generations.

Become a volunteer.

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About author

Jasmine Mifsud
Jasmine Mifsud, who hails from Malta, has an incredible interest in the water surrounding the small island. Her passion for the sea is not surprising, since as a little girl, her biggest dream was to explore the oceans. This ambition created its own pathway as every decision she ever made led her to become an influential woman who decided to create a life for herself instead of living in someone else’s shoes. As time flew by, she became more adventurous and curious about our blue planet. She specialized in environmental sciences and took a tangent route into maritime archaeology, which she considers to be one of her best decisions to date. Throughout her journey, she has built friendships with some of the most inspiring divers globally, all of whom share unique experiences and stories worth listening to. As a young woman in the industry, her journey has only just begun.
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