They aren’t purple people eaters — they’re giant purple sea slugs. Despite their weird appearances, these blobs showing up on East Bay beaches are more interested in plants than they are in the curious bipedal animals snapping pictures around them.
According to Contra Costa Times, the purple sea slugs, or California sea hares, have been causing some people to wonder if they’ve found purple human hearts on the beach or just, well, weird purple blobs that can’t immediately be explained. People have called emergency services wanting to know just what these gooey blobs are and where on earth they come from.
While the sea slugs are unusually large and abundant, they are perfectly natural to the area. Carolyn Jones, a spokeswoman for the East Bay Regional Park District, explained, “It’s native to our area. It’s not endangered, but they are rarely seen other than an occasional one here or there.”
The reason these purple sea slugs are washing up on East Bay beaches may be because the coastal waters are warmer, according to the Associated Press.
Morgan Dill, a naturalist at the Crab Cove Visitor Center in Alameda, said, “We can’t say for sure why we’re seeing so many, but the Bay temperatures are definitely warmer this year.”
Terry Gosliner, senior curator at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, believes the huge increase in sea slugs could be in tune with a periodic population increase in the mollusks, but he doesn’t discount warming in the least.
“We’re seeing more of these kinds of warming events, and I suspect it may be part of long-term global change. These are signals.”
The sea slugs can weigh as much as 15 pounds, but the ones washing up in East Bay aren’t as big. They are sometimes called sea hares because of their antennae, which can look like rabbit ears.
Most of the time, the purple sea slugs only wash up on shore after they lay their eggs and are dying.
It is unknown how many of these creatures have washed up on shore since last fall, but some residents have never seen one of these purple blobs until now.
Oakland resident Joel Peter saw the purple sea slugs moving through a canal into Lake Merritt.
“I had never seen one before, and then all of a sudden there were 22 of them with these brilliant colors. They really caught my eye.”
[Photo via Contra Costa Times/Morgan Dill]