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New species of mysterious sea creature found in UK for first time could be a serious warning

New species of mysterious sea creature found in UK for first time could be a serious warning

This may not be a good sign

Scientists have spotted a new species in UK waters for the first time, which is pretty cool, right?

Well, yes and no.

While your initial reaction might be one of celebration, sadly on this occasion the appearance of the mysterious sea creature may not be a good sign for the waters around the UK.

While the UK's waters may not be as spectacular as a tropical coral reef, temperate waters like those around the UK are actually some of the richest for marine life in the world.

But species like this one are not normally found this far north, and could be an indicator of some worrying trends surrounding climate change.

So what is this mysterious creature causing all the fuss?

It's a sea slug!

Meet the sea slug, which is a member of the Pleurobranchaea group that's normally found much further south off the waters of Spain or in the Mediterranean Sea.

Sea slugs are marine molluscs which don't have a shell, unlike their cousins the sea snails which can boast enormous shells.

Sea Slugs come in all shapes and sizes.
Andre Seale/VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The name 'sea slug' can also be used colloquially to refer to animals which resemble a slug but which are actually very different biologically, such as a sea cucumber.

These are actually echinoderms, the same group as starfish and sea urchins, rather than molluscs.

But what does the presence of this particular sea slug indicate?

Sadly, it's not good news. The new type of slug called Pleurobranchaea britannica was discovered by Ross Bullimore from the Centre for the Environment, Food and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS)

He explained that this is an indicator species, meaning that it is sensitive to its environment so can be used to gauge change.

He said: "We're seeing the presence of a species [belonging to a group] which has always previously been recorded in warmer waters.

Sea Slugs are a hugely varied kind of animal.
Andre Seale/VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

"It could indicate that what you're observing is this group of species being able to expand its range further because conditions are becoming more favourable or more appropriate for it."

Peter Barry of CEFAS said: "To find a new species that's not microscopic is quite exciting. It shows that there's still work to be done."

It is exciting to find a new species, but this also indicates that conditions around UK waters are changing.

While the sea slug may love it, it's possible that native UK species may not find new conditions quite so hospitable.

This goes all the way down to the plankton at the bottom of the food chain, on which many other species ultimately depend.

Featured Image Credit: Andre Seale/VW PICS/Universal Images Group/Getty Images/Cristian Umili/VWPics/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Topics: News, UK News, Animals