This seemingly innocent beach snap hides a killer secret – so can you spot the toxic slug?
- Toxic dead sea slug has blended into seemingly innocent photo at a WA beach
- Council in WA’s south-west reported abnormal number of the washed-up slugs
- They can look like any other rock on the sand but contain dangerous bacteria
- High quantities of algae also washing up in region; prompting similar warning
A toxic dead sea slug has blended into in a seemingly innocent photo of an Australian beach – prompting authorities to issue an urgent public safety warning.
Shire of Augusta-Margaret River in Western Australia‘s south-west have reported an abnormally high number of large sea hares washing up along the local coastline.
The toxic slugs look like any other rock littered across the sand but have a putrid smell and are particularly dangerous to pets, the council said.
But worryingly, they often blend into the beach scene thanks to looking remarkably similar to a rock.
This seemingly innocent photo of a Western Australian beach shows a toxic dead sea slug hiding among the rocks
The shire’s co-ordinator of landcare/environment John McKinney said partially decomposed animals commonly appear on the region’s beaches in late summer.
But he added this year had seen dead slugs being washed ashore every night regardless of fluctuations in the tides and weather.
‘The shire understands that in certain circumstances some species of sea hares can be toxic to dogs and has erected signage at key locations throughout Augusta to advise dog owners to be vigilant,’ he told NCA NewsWire.
The state’s Department of Primary Development and Regional Development said decomposing fish can contain dangerous levels of bacteria.
‘Anyone who has handled dead or dying fish and experiences any inflammation on their hands around any cuts or abrasions should see a doctor,’ the department said.
Mr McKinney said the slugs were being left strewn across the beach by authorities because there are too many of them to clean up.
The toxic bacteria-containing slugs smell bad and are particularly dangerous to pets, Shire of Augusta-Margaret River council said
The environmental expert said the fact the animal was washing up daily also made the job of removing them from the beach more difficult.
He added algal blooms – a rapid accumulation of algae – were producing a potent fishy smell along the coast and also should not be eaten by pets.
Samples of the animals have been taken away for analysis.
WHAT ARE SEA HARES?
Sea hares are a type of large sea slug that have a soft body and a small internal shell they use for swimming in the ocean.
They feed on algae and usually live for about a year by sliding over rocks they pass.
Hares can reach up to 20cm in length and can camouflage themselves easily on beaches and rocky coastlines.
They are found across Australia in parts of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia.
During summer, their eggs are released as spaghetti-like strings.
Source: Australian Museum