Rare multi-coloured sea slug spotted for first time in UK waters

The colourful and extremely rare sea slug, Babakina anadoni, has been spotted off the coast of the Isles of Scilly, making it the first-ever recording of the species in the UK

Multi-colour sea slug under water
Published: August 5th, 2022 at 8:35 am

The spectacular Babakina anadoni, an extremely rare species of sea slug, or nudibranch, has been recorded in UK waters for the first time.

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The 2cm-long nudibranch was spotted – and captured on camera – by Seasearch volunteer Allen Murray near Melledgan, an uninhabited rock island in the Isles of Scilly, during the Wildlife Trust’s National Marine Week.

According to the Cornwall Wildlife Trust and the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust, this member of the aeolid nudibranch family has only been recorded several times along the west coast of Spain and elsewhere in the Atlantic, but never in UK waters.

Rowing boat on St Agnes in the Isles of Scilly
The Babakina anadoni sighting was made near Melledgan, an uninhabited rock island just south of St Agnes (pictured) /Credit: Getty

“What an incredible find," said Matt Slater, Marine Conservation Officer at Cornwall Wildlife Trust and Co-ordinator of the Seasearch programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

"We were extremely excited to hear about the sighting of this colourful nudibranch – a species that we believe has never been recorded in the UK before.

“It’s one of the prettiest sea slugs I’ve seen and, given its less than half the size of your little finger, it’s amazing that Allen spotted it at all. There’s still so much out there that we don’t know about our marine environment. Records like this from our Seasearch divers are vital in helping us understand and better protect our seas.”

Lucy McRobert, Communications Manager at Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust, added: “We never cease to be amazed at the wildlife turning up in Scillonian waters. From rare and beautiful nudibranchs to violet sea snails to great whales like humpbacks and fins, every time we dive beneath the surface we learn and see something new.”

Nudibranchs are soft bodied and often brightly coloured. They feed on seaweeds, anemones and other sea slugs, and can take the stinging cells from their prey and incorporate them into their own bodies, offering a defence against predators.

To find out more about becoming a Seasearch volunteer diver, visit www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk/seasearch

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Main image: the rare and multi-coloured Babakina anadoni recorded in UK waters for the first time/Credit: Allen Murray

Authors

Daniel Graham of COuntryfile magazine on a hike with wet hair and blue coat and hills in background
Daniel GrahamSection editor, BBC Countryfile Magazine

Danny is the Section Editor of BBC Countryfile Magazine, responsible for commissioning, editing and writing articles that offer ideas and inspiration for exploring the UK countryside.

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