Giant Purple 'Sea Hares' Wash Up On San Francisco Bay Area Beaches (Photos)

| by Khier Casino

Dozens of purple sea animals that resemble human organs washed ashore earlier this month in California’s Bay Area, alarming residents.

At least one person reported seeing a giant purple sea slug, also known as a “sea hare,” after thinking that the animal was a person’s heart, according to the Daily Mail.

The mollusks, which can reach up to 15 pounds and 30 inches long, lay eggs that resemble noodles and live for about a year before dying.

(via the Daily Mail)

While sea hares have began turning up on the beaches of cities such as Alameda and Oakland, California, by the dozens recently, they are native to the area.

Last month, 22 purple blobs were seen in an inlet to Lake Merritt in Oakland.

“It’s not endangered, but they are rarely seen other than an occasional one here or there,” Carolyn Jones, spokeswoman for the East Bay Regional Park District, told the Contra Costa Times.

Officials don’t have the exact number of sea hares that have recently washed ashore, but the animals have not reached peak size and are about the size of a fist.

“There was a [sea hare] population boom about a year ago and what we’re seeing is, after a year, they lay their eggs and they die and we’re seeing them wash up on shore,” Morgan Dill, a naturalist with the district, said.

Although the abundance of dead sea hares washing ashore is unusual, naturalists say this is the second time there has been a high rate of the animals dying off in the past 15 years.

Reasons for the current population growth is unclear, but scientists believe that sea hares tend to reproduce more in warmer water.

Even though the sea hares are not dangerous, naturalists caution residents not to take them home, and leave them on the beach.

Sources: Daily Mail, CBS San Francisco / Photo Credit: East Bay Regional Park District/Morgan Dill