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Sea Hare's Sticky Defense Mechanism Explained [VIDEO]

Update Date: Mar 28, 2013 07:50 PM EDT
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Scientists have discovered that the sea hare, a soft-bodied marine creature, uses a sticky secretion in order to trick hungry predators.

Despite their slug-like appearance that features no shell, these creatures have a defense that causes most animals to swim the other way. They squirt out an off-putting mixture of white substance known as opaline and some purple ink, according to a study conducted by a research team from Georgia State University, Atlanta. The study was published Wednesday in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Researchers suggested that with their sense of smell blocked predators lose their appetite and spend a long time cleaning themselves of the sticky coating, allowing the sea hares to escape. The study showed that the sea hares use "sensory inactivation" as a defense against predators.

"It is the first demonstration involving not only the chemical senses, but to our knowledge, for any sensory system. A combination of mechanisms acting simultaneously may be more effective than any one alone," said Dr Charles Derby, one of the study's researchers.

The study have found that opaline gets coated at the antennae of the predator and thus deactivate their chemical senses. Spiny lobsters have chemical sensory organs all over their head and legs, and the researchers suspect sea hares can clog them all.

"Typically, a sea hare is in the grasp of a spiny lobster before the sea hare inks," they wrote. "Our observations are that the ink sticks to all of the sensory appendages in the anterior end, including the antennules, mouthparts and anterior legs. We would expect an effect on these other chemoreceptors similar to that we have demonstrated for antennular chemoreceptors."

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