Scientists discover mysterious sea creature in UK waters | Energy and Science

Scientists discover mysterious sea creature in UK waters |  Energy and Science

A new species of sea slug has been discovered in UK waters. Researchers from the Center for Environment, Food and Aquaculture Sciences (CEFAS) said they first thought it was a well-known species. Pleurobranchaea meckeli, found near Spain and the Mediterranean – but they weren't sure. There are no previous records of this type of slug in the UK, “raising questions about its identity”, the center said. In a press release.

A new species of slug, named Pleurobranchia brittanica, small: two to five centimeters long. It was discovered during a routine survey of marine life in south-west England and the center sought experts specializing in this type of slug to help identify it.

Pleurobranchaea britannica — Photo: Ross Bullimore / CEFAS

Experts sent the specimen to the University of Cadiz in Spain, where researchers analyzed its DNA and physical characteristics, finding that it had a different appearance and reproductive system than any other known species. Therefore, it was determined to be a new and autonomous species.

“The discovery marks the first recorded case of a sea slug of the species Pleurobranchia in UK waters,” reads the press release. “Scientists believe the new species could be found as far south as Spain and Portugal, around the French coast and as far southwest as the English Channel.”

Although snails are small, they are not only prey – they are also predators. To protect themselves from predators, some sea snails recycle parts of the prey they eat. For example, if they eat prey with toxins, they secrete the poison into their skin.

“It's exciting to see that routine fisheries surveys can still lead to discoveries like this. We need to briefly examine a couple of samples and confirm that we've found a species. Pleurobranchia“, said Ross Bullimore, a marine ecologist who collected the samples. “This was exciting because no other species of this species have been documented in UK waters or even in the far north.”

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Bullimore said they were surprised that we had identified a new species. “There is often an assumption that we know everything there is to know about species found in UK waters, but this shows that there is much more to learn in our own backyard,” he said.

Hayden Close, a seabed researcher and modeler at the centre, said the discovery of a new species was “exciting”. “It only highlights the value of this research and reminds us of the limitless unexplored secrets of the ocean, even in areas we think are well mapped and studied,” he said.

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