Image: close shot of an eelgrass sea hare!

How Sea Bunnies and Otters Teamed Up to Save a Seashore

Can something small and squishy without any arms or legs be the key to saving an ecosystem from total collapse? Sure, these tiny creatures probably aren’t what you’d expect from a typical superhero, but not all heroes wear capes. Instead, this one sports a voracious appetite!

On this edition of Saturdays Around the World, we’re heading to California, USA to see the beautiful story of an ecosystem being restored, through the eyes of a wonderful creature called a “Sea Bunny”!(The best way, if you ask me!)

Image: close shot of an eelgrass sea hare!
Source: Ken-ichi Ueda // Encyclopedia of Life

Sunny Bunny!

At the center of an ecosystem’s revival in Monterey Bay, California is a tiny sea hare with a very, very important job. They live atop a type of grass called eelgrass, and just like a Zamboni polishing the ice after a hockey game, they move up and down the blades to clear the algae off, letting more sunlight in.

This sea slug and eelgrass relationship is a really cute example of coevolution, the process when two species evolve together and come to depend on one another!

Unfortunately, though, something threw their delicate dance majorly out of whack almost half a century ago. Otters that lived in the area started disappearing. Meanwhile, agricultural runoff fed the algae in the water so much that large blooms began to fill the surface, blocking out the sun!

So, what do otters, sea hares, and eelgrass have to do with each other? Well, it’s this relationship that helped conservationists bring the land back from the brink.

One of my favorite creators, Deep Look, brings us to Elkhorn Slough, a large winding estuary off of Monterey Bay in California, to get up close and personal with these little wonders to see how saving them saved their home.

Via: Deep Look 1

Thank you so much to Deep Look for sharing this wonderful bit of insight! If you’d like to see more videos from them, check out their Youtube channel!

If we’ve had the chance to chat in the past two years, I’ve probably mentioned sea slugs and my fresh, undying love for them since learning about their existence (I’ve never been anywhere near one!). This infatuation all goes back to my first article about sea slugs and their super quirky ways of living in this world. Some can even photosynthesize! Like a plant!

The Sneaky Smarts of Sea Slugs

From sporting bright colors to a touch that really stings, sea slugs have adopted quite a few interesting traits to keep them out of the mouths of predators. Our world only gets more interesting the more we know about our fellow inhabitants, so let’s spend a moment with these unique ones!

Read More

An ecosystem is like a community, and like any successful, healthy one, everyone is embraced for their unique contributions!

What we just saw with the otters, sea hares, and eelgrass is called a trophic cascade: when the removal or addition of a top predator drastically changes an ecosystem.

When the otter populations dwindled from fur poaching, crab populations ended up starting to really thrive. Sounds pretty nice for the crabs, right? But the problem for everyone else is their favorite snack: sea hares. With more crabs in the area, the sea hare populations were in serious trouble. And without those sea hares to clean them—combined with the overload of algae on the top of the water—the eelgrass beds started dying. But, fortunately, when otters were reintroduced to the area, things started to improve again!

Pretty amazing, right? We’ve written about this kind of interconnection, and how we keep it healthy, before:

The Messy Eater Helping Save Over 18 Other Species

Brought back from the brink of extinction, the world’s largest flying parrot won’t just stun you with its giant wings and shocking color—they’re up to something really special! Here’s how their rising numbers are helping nearly two dozen other species thrive, as well.

Read More
Where There’s a Weevil, There’s a Way!

Here’s a story that shows what’s possible when we use our strengths to solve big problems. When a Texas lake and way of life were threatened by an invasive species, scientists, community members, and weevils teamed up to save their beloved waters!

Read More
Use Your Love for Eating to Save the Coral Reef!

Love food? This is one way you can use that love for good. Lionfish populations have gone out of control in areas that these fish were never meant to be and they’re endangering coral reefs. But we can use our stomachs to help!

Read More

Everyone has their place!

It’s easy to brush off the impact of a creature that eats algae all day, just like it’s easy to brush off how much better our lives are because of janitors, truck drivers, grocers, mail delivery people, and garbage sanitation workers. Their work is critical to the health and success of society! But all too often, it goes overlooked until the moment something’s not quite right.

If there’s something the events of 2020 have taught us, it’s how essential these people are in our communities’ survival. Even in times of crisis, we depend on them to keep our lives running!

Who’s involved in keeping your own community ecosystem running steadily? And where do you fit in?

Stay open to new possibilities!

  • Sam

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Notes:

  1. Deep Look. “See Sea Slugs Scour Seagrass by the Seashore | Deep Look.” YouTube, 10 Nov. 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjvhVVu5uqE. Accessed 8 Dec. 2020.
Published: December 26, 2020

Image: Samantha Burns

Sam Burns

Former Editor-In-Chief

Sam wrote and edited hundreds of articles during her time on the Goodness Exchange team from 2016-2021. She wrote about topics from the wonders of nature to the organizations changing the world and the simple joys in life! Outside of the Goodness Exchange, she’s a part-time printmaker, collector of knick-knacks, and procurer of cheeses.

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