Warming ocean temperatures are giving rise to new sightings. Sea slugs – not exactly something you want to see – are populating the area off the coast of San Francisco.
Rarely seen in this area, scientists are speculating warming ocean temperatures are the cause behind the explosion. The warmer temps could be exerting a new force on the local and non-local marine wildlife.
If you are in the Monterey Bay area, near San Jose, you can see the one-inch hot pink sea slugs. These are more commonly seen in the waters around Los Angeles and San Diego. They may draw a crowd with their color, but researchers are concerned about the effect on the local ecosystem.
“We haven’t seen anything like it in years. These nudibranchs are mainly southern species, and they have been all but absent for more than a decade,” John Pearse of the University of California, Santa Cruz, said.
The last time the Hopkins’ Rose nudibranch seas slug was seen in these waters was during the El Nino years of 1983 and 1998. Before you jump on that explanation, El Nino is not present this year.
“I remembered 1977 and decided to sample my old study sites on either side of Monterey Bay. Both also had exceptionally abundant Okenia, plus other southern nudibranchs not typically present, including at one site the stunning purple and orange Spanish Shawl,” Jeff Goddard from the California Academy of Sciences and the Marine Science Institute stated in a university press release.
So, why now? The easiest explanation is wind patterns. Over the past 12 months, unusual wind patterns have been blamed for warming water temperatures in North America as much as 5 degrees.
This has caused unusual animal sightings across the area. San Francisco has been ground zero for unusual sightings. One person fishing caught a turtle that is normally in Mexico.
The high temperature also means a less productive ecosystem. Researchers are warning of wide-ranging impacts on the ecosystem of the area. The slugs target moss as a favorite food source.