Ready to learn about possibly the cutest sea creature of all time? Meet the sea bunny! While this animal’s scientific name is Jorunna parva, it has been dubbed the sea bunny slug due to its resemblance to a fluffy white bunny rabbit.
Long before the sea bunny became quite the viral video sensation in 2015, these unique ocean animals have been hippity-hopping around the waters of the Indo-Pacific Ocean. Divers spot sea bunnies most commonly off the coast of Japan. However, they have also been found off the coast of countries like the Philippines and Australia. To spot one you’ll have to look very closely, as they are typically less than one inch long. Sea bunnies are actually a species of sea slug, or nudibranch, and were first described by renowned Japanese marine biologist Kikutaro Baba. Here are five fascinating facts about these little ‘furry’ friends.
That’s Not A Fur Coat
First off, the white fur coat you see on the sea bunny slug can actually range in color from yellow to orange to even brown. Secondly, it’s definitely not fur. What you’re looking at are groups of small rods known as caryophyllidia covering the nudibranch’s back. These are arranged around small black specks that give the sea bunny its spotted look. Most experts believe that these organs play a sensory role.
Those ‘Ears’ Are Actually Sensory Organs
The two little ‘ears’ that make these sea creatures look like bunnies are actually sensory organs called rhinophores. They help the sea bunny to detect chemical scents in the water column, allowing them to find food and also potential mates. In the world of nudibranchs, sea bunny rhinophores are particularly ‘fuzzy’, allowing for more surface area for reception to occur. In fact, sea bunnies are effective at detecting scents over surprisingly large distances – especially considering how small they are.
Sea Bunnies Are Hermaphrodites
Like all nudibranchs, sea bunnies are hermaphrodites, meaning that they have both male and female reproductive organs. They mate by both exchanging sperm with one another to fertilize their eggs. Therefore, they are both mother to their own children and the father of someone else’s, while both their offspring are direct siblings.
Predators Don’t Like Their Toxins
Predators stay away from these cute little slugs because they are incredibly toxic. The sea bunny slug belongs to a group of sea slugs called dorid nudibranchs, which steal toxic defenses from their food. They often eat food like sponges that contain toxins.
Sea Bunnies Have Short Lifespans
The average lifespan of a sea bunny slug is only between a couple months and a year. Because of their short lifespan and typically isolated lifestyle, mating is not guaranteed and must be taken advantage of when the opportunity arises. This is also why it is so important they have such a well-developed sensory system to be able to locate one another.
By now you’re probably aware that despite its appearance, the sea bunny slug has little in common with an actual bunny rabbit. They are however super cute and fascinating marine animals that live in coastal Indo-Pacific waters. To learn more about sea bunny slugs, check out this humorous blog from Dr. Craig McClain on Deep Sea News.
Interested in observing the sea bunny slug on a dive? If you aren’t already a PADI certified diver, you can start your diving journey online right now via PADI eLearning. Then, you can connect with a PADI Dive Center or Resort at anytime to complete your in water training. If you’re already a certified diver, and are excited to start planning a sea bunny dive trip, let’s us help you.