Giant purple blob invasion in S.F. Bay? Unsightly slugs create quite a stir

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Giant purple blob, a.k.a California sea hare. Photo: Morgan Dill

First there were tiny by-the-wind sailors, making headlines by washing shore by the millions throughout parts of California. Then there were pelagic red crabs, littering shores in the southern part of the state.

Now there’s the giant purple blob!

These enormous slugs, which resemble blobs but are actually harmless California sea hares, are being discovered on beaches in east San Francisco Bay.

Like the tiny gelatinous by-the-wind sailors, and the red crabs, their strandings might be linked to a strengthening El Nino, a warm-water event originating in the eastern tropical Pacific.

Though their range extends along much of California, California sea hares are far more common in Mexico and along the Baja California coast.

And judging from reports, they’re far less cool-looking than the blue-hued gelatinous by-the-wind sailors, or the red crabs, which look like a cross between tiny lobsters and crabs.

According to the Contra Costa Times, one beachgoer who stumbled upon a giant purple slug telephoned 911, saying he had discovered a human heart.

“We are getting calls from the public asking what the heck is this big weird purple blob,” Carolyn Jones, a spokeswoman for the East Bay Regional Park District, told the newspaper. “It’s native to our area. It’s not endangered, but they are rarely seen other than an occasional one here or there.”

There have been more than just the one 911 call, according to CBS, which quotes East Bay Regional Park Naturalist Morgan Dill as saying, “They’re about the size of a human organ.”

They can be considerably larger, reaching weights of 15 pounds and lengths of 30 inches. But most of the dozens that have been found during the past month or so are about the size of a fist.

Dill, whose photo is used atop this post, said most of the slugs being encountered are dead, but some are alive, and sort of pulsating, making them all the more blob-like.

The critters are called sea hares because their antennae resemble rabbit ears and, thankfully, like rabbits, they’re vegetarians.

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