Love is in the air at the National Museum of Natural History! Our scientists are helping species look for love in this series of “dating profiles” to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Will #NMNHcupid help them find their one and only?
Screen name: LookingforaLoveChain
Age/ Orientation: 6 months old/hermaphrodite
Location: Indian River Lagoon, Fort Pierce, Florida
Height/ Body Type: 7 inches long and squishy, much like a wet marshmallow.
My self summary
I’m a sea slug, but am called a “sea hare” because the sensory organs on my head, called rhinophores, look like bunny ears.
I'm really good at
Eating and reproducing. I only live for about a year, so that’s pretty much all I have time for. As I hermaphrodite I can be either male or female. I’m also really good at finding other sea hares using chemical cues. When we find each other, a bunch of us will line up and attach so that we can form a love chain!
The first thing people usually notice about me
I’m a very graceful swimmer, especially for a slug!
Gracilaria, a type of red algae. YUM!
I think a lot about
My cousin, the octopus, gets all the attention. I can ink, too, ya know! My ink actually acts on the chemosensory systems of would-be predators, disrupting the chemicals that make me an attractive prey item, or attracting the predator to the ink instead of me. It can also warn other sea hares of danger nearby!
The most private thing I'm willing to share
I have the largest neurons in the animal kingdom and only about 20,000 of them, so I’m a favorite study animal for neuroscientists.
Images and text by Jasmine Wanek, Smithsonian Marine Station, National Museum of Natural History