Photo of the marine animal went viral and caught the attention of experts, who identified the carcass of a sea hare, an “aquatic slug” that releases toxins when threatened.
While walking along the coast of Fremantle, a city in southwest Australia, a man encountered a bizarre “creature” amid the warm landscape.
Surprised, he posted a photo on his Facebook with the caption: “Identify this alien-looking thing that appeared on Leighton Beach.”
The publication went viral and several people commented. One suggested that he should take the animal with a plastic bag and throw it away. Another speculated that the animal was a “dog killer”.
What nobody imagined is that the animal was a sea hare, as an expert interviewed by Yahoo News Australia explains.
They can be toxic
Professor Culum Brown, of the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University, said the creature produces purple dye when alarmed. “They are slightly toxic, depending on the algae they eat,” said Brown.
There are 23 known species of sea hares in the Indo-Pacific Ocean. Adult specimens can weigh up to 14 kg (30lb).
Similar to octopuses, they can expel an ink full of toxins and use it as a defense mechanism.
The toxin can actually kill a dog
In the end, the Internet user who commented that the creature was a “dog killer” wasn’t completely mistaken.
Joshua Ovens, an associate veterinarian at Swans Veterinary Services, told Esperance Express that if you believe your dog has eaten a sea hare, you should contact a veterinarian immediately as toxins from the marine animal can be fatal.
“In terms of clinical signs, if your dog has licked or eaten one, they’ll tend to drool excessively, they can get muscle spasms and begin shaking, vomiting and it can progress to seizures and possible death if they get a really large dosage,” said the vet.
Common in tropical and temperate seas, as well as in shallow coastal shores and protected bays, contact with the animal should be avoided.