SANTA CRUZ, Spain – Researchers have found in Cuba a unique sea slug that emits light when it is disturbed.
In addition, two of the biologists described five other new slug species – one of which is considered to be a true so-called “living fossil” – that they found in Spain’s Canary Islands.
There are more than 260 species of sea slugs in the Canaries and researchers believe that two of the recently discovered species are “very peculiar,” according to Leopoldo Moro, of the Canary Islands government’s Biodiversity Service.
One of them is a living fossil, namely the sea slug named Akera silbo and found on the island of La Gomera.
The slug is the second species of the genus Akera to be found in the Atlantic and is just as significant a find as Odontoglaja sabadiega, another slug identified by the same researchers 12 years ago on the Spanish island of El Hierro.
This is the only representative of the genus Odontoglaja – which has teeth, a trait that is an exception in its animal family – in the Atlantic and only the second to be found in the world.
Also noteworthy is the sea slug found on Lanzarote and named Elysia manriquei in honor of artist Cesar Manrique “for the architecture and colorful designs of its body,” Moro said.
Moro and Jesus Ortea, of Spain’s University of Oviedo are two of the researchers comprising a Spanish-Cuban team that, since 2006, has been making an inventory of the sea slugs on Cuba’s hurricane-prone Guanahacabibes peninsula.
During this study, 775 different species of sea slugs were found, almost 50 percent of all those that live in Cuba, a situation that confirms the importance of this geographic region “as a hotspot for marine diversity,” Moro said.
The area is also important due to the “bi-directional” nature of its coastal currents and as a zone where planktonic larvae are produced that can allow parts of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea to recover ecologically after being affected by various types of natural disasters.
Thanks to the ongoing inventory, now a total of 54 new sea slug species have been found, given that the discovery of 40 new species had been announced in March 2008. EFE