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New Sea Slug Species Discovered Off UK Coast

Researchers at the Centre for the Environment, Food and Aquaculture Science have identified a new species of sea slug in the waters off the southwest of England, marking a significant discovery in marine biology.

The newly discovered species, named Pleurobranchaea britannica, challenges previous assumptions about the biodiversity in UK waters.

A Surprising Discovery

Initially thought to be the well-known Pleurobranchaea meckeli, found near Spain and the Mediterranean, the specimen’s unique characteristics led scientists to question its identity.

With no prior records of this slug type in the UK, a collaborative investigation with the University of Cádiz in Spain was undertaken.

Through DNA analysis and physical examination, researchers confirmed it as a distinct species, showcasing differences in appearance and reproductive systems.

This discovery not only adds a new member to the Pleurobranchaea genus in UK waters but also suggests the species’ potential distribution from Spain and Portugal to the southwest of the English Channel.

Predatory Habits and Defense Mechanisms

The Pleurobranchaea britannica, ranging between two and five centimeters in length, embodies the dual role of predator and prey in its ecosystem.

Notably, some sea slugs, including this new species, have evolved to utilize the toxins from their consumed prey as a defensive mechanism, incorporating the poisons into their own skin to deter predators.

The discovery by Ross Bullimore, a marine ecologist, and Hayden Close, a seabed analyst and modeler, emphasizes the vast, uncharted mysteries that persist in marine environments, even in regions considered well-explored.

With information from CBS News

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