Scientists discover species of sea slug in England

During routine research in fishing grounds in southwest England and the Gulf of Cádiz, scientists from the UK Center for Environment, Food and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) and the University of Cádiz in Spain collected 14 specimens of sea slugs.

Of the more than 100 known species of sea slugs found in British waters, this new one, called Pleurobranchaea britannicastands out for its cream and clay color with little white dots.

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“When Cefas scientists contacted me and told me that they had collected individuals belonging to the sea slug genus Pleurobranchaeabut whose specific identity was not clear, I was really surprised,” Dr. Juan Lucas Cervera Currado of the University of Cádiz told IFL Science.

“Firstly, because species of this genus have never been found in the British Isles and, secondly, because the possibility of having found a new species of this genus in European waters was really exciting,” said Currado.

How was the discovery of the new species

  • Initially, researchers thought it could be another known species, the Pleurobranchaea meckelibut the presence of a small lateral gill raised questions about its true identity;
  • The samples were sent to a team in Spain, where they were genetically analyzed and compared with other known species;
  • It was then confirmed that it was a new species;
  • Currently, the genre Pleurobranchaea has three known species.

It's exciting to see that routine fisheries surveys can still lead to such discoveries. A brief inspection of two specimens was enough to be sure that we had found a species of Pleurobranchaea. This was exciting, because no other species of this genus had been documented in UK waters, or even this far north.

Ross Bullimore, marine ecologist at Cefas and co-author of the article describing the sea slug, in a statement sent to IFLScience

Image: Ross Bullimore ©

sea ​​slug

Sea slugs are colorful and diverse animals, and can have incredible characteristics and a unique appearance.

Furthermore, some are able to use characteristics of their prey, such as photosynthesis or toxins, for their own benefit.

“There is often an assumption that we know everything there is to know about the species found in UK waters, but this just goes to show that there is still a lot to learn in our own backyard,” said Bullimore.

The discovery of this new species increases knowledge about the animals found in British waters and highlights the importance of continued studies in the area.

The research was published in Zoosystems and Evolution.

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