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Sea Hare Ink

August 21, 2014

Sea hares defend themselves from predators with colorful ink.




A sea hare exudes colorful ink to ward off predators. (Genevieve Anderson/ Santa Barbara City College)

A colorful defense. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Sea hares are strange sluglike creatures that live on seaweed in shallow waters. Like squid, they emit a colorful but foul-tasting ink when threatened by predators. But according to Georgia State neuroecologist Charles Derby, the ink contains an amino acid that can actually stimulate a predator’s appetite.

CHARLES DERBY (Georgia State University):

They’ll grab the sea hare; the sea hare will ink, and the predator will drop the sea hare and start eating this ink, and what happens then is that it’s distracted by this, and allows the sea hare to escape. So it’s a pretty cool form of defense.


Derby’s research team found that the ink may also scramble the predator’s ability to sense the presence of prey. And he adds that enzymes in the ink have antimicrobial properties, which could be used to treat wounds or combat harmful bacteria. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.