Sailors have long reported sights of heavenly creatures floating beneath the surface of the water. They may not have glimpsed their ship’s tracks peeking through, but they were right about one thing: there are doing Sea angels lurking in the oceans.
Sea angels are in the Gymnosomata clade and are tiny little sea slugs that can only measure up to seven centimeters in maximum length. They get their name from their wing-like appendages that help them move around their ocean home.
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The sea angels are truly captivating to watch. Part of their overall attractiveness can be attributed to the way they walk. These creatures glide through the ocean in a pulsating motion as beautiful as a dance dance. The other thing that makes them so mesmerizing to watch is that these animals are semi-transparent. You can see their internal organs and gonads just by looking at them! You don’t need a magic school bus to get an in-depth look into the inner workings of a sea fairy. You can look through these incredible creatures and imagine what tickles them.
There is a long list of things that make sea angels wonderful. They are bisexual, which means they can change gender. Their mating rituals look like a dance—which is every middle school dance chaperone’s worst nightmare—but it’s actually quite cute to watch. During these rituals a sea angel couple is locked together, wandering for hours listening to the symphony of the depths of the ocean.
sea angels really live shell-tored life. They are born with shells, but they lose them as they become adults. Once they mature and transform into their adult form, they transform into like a caterpillar turns into a butterfly. But do not confuse them with sea butterflies. Those ocean flutters, although they are actually fellow pteropods, are not friends with sea angels – they are their lunch!
Yes, I tempted you into a false sense of security about sea angels. Here’s the turn in the story, the moment the spooky music starts to play and we plunge into the deep dark secrets of these beautiful sea angels.
You see, sea angels are actually carnivores, and they feed exclusively on equally adorable looking sea butterflies. Like horror movie villains, different sea angels have different strategies when it comes to killing their prey. Some prefer to wait for the right moment to ambush; Others actively hunt poor sea butterflies before they can be eaten. Incredibly, sea angels move twice as fast as their prey, making it easier for them to proceed to kill.
Once they grab their unfortunate meal, the real horror show begins. Sea angels open their mouths and have specialized tentacle-like appendages known as buccal cones. Unlike sea angels, sea butterflies do not lose their shells. Thus, these buccal cones have many hooks and teeth such as the radula that allow them to extract the sea butterfly from a shell and into its gullet.
Take a moment to picture this with me. Imagine that you are about to be killed in a horror movie by a ruthless killer who is apparently quite evil. This killer’s skin is also transparent, so you can literally see his heart beating as it goes to kill (yes, even more creepy). Then, they take off their mask to reveal a bunch of tentacles overflowing with sharp edges designed to scoop out their pulpy bits like avocados from their shell. Yes, We Agree: It Really Is Scary.
Oh… and remember what about the beautiful mating dance of sea angels? Well, I have left out a very important part in my description. When sea angels mate so close to a mate they actually replace their reproductive organs from inside to outside. These critters have special suction cups that hold them together, making them literally spoiled throughout the experience. Oh, and sometimes they’ll hunt at the same time as mating. Double the terrifying creepy creature killing you with razor tentacles, double the… fun?
Like every good supervillain, sea angels make it very difficult to kill. Some species produce a chemical defense to prevent the fish from being eaten. This trait has made him a henchman too! Partners in the crime – tiny crustaceans called amphipods – will attach themselves to these sea angels to take advantage of their superior defenses.
And of course, deep down, every good horror movie has a lesson in survival. Sea angels are no different. These animals and their prey occurred in the Cretaceous period, about 130 million years ago. This means that they have already survived the mass extinction event and Scientists are studying them to see if they also have lessons to teach us about resilience.
While their behavior may be terrifying, they also have reason to fear us. Human-induced ocean acidification is a direct threat to sea butterflies, which means sea angels are literally losing their lunch. The shell of a sea butterfly is very thin, which means it can dissolve in highly acidic seawater. Good News? You can take action on ocean acidification today to keep sea butterflies and awesome and wonderful sea angels alive and healthy for millions of years to come. Don’t wait: take action today for these jaw-dropping creatures.
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