Elusive sea butterflies mysteriously flock to Israel coast after 29 years. Take a look
The Gulf of Aqaba, off the southernmost tip of Israel, has some new residents.
For the first time in 29 years, the sea is filled with millions of tiny, translucent ocean snails called sea butterflies.
In a rare spectacle, millions of the sea butterflies have flocked to the Israeli coast, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority shared in a Feb. 5 news release, at the surprise of scientists and raising questions. Why are they here?
Sea butterflies are part of the same taxonomic order as mollusks, except they have extra fleshy wings, giving them their name.
“These creatures have a pair of butterfly-like fins,” marine scientist Bracha Prestei told The Jerusalem Post. “Expanding in the shell, they extend into the water that increases their surface area, which allows it to float and swim actively using their fins.”
Officials said the sea butterflies are tiny, some as small as a few millimeters across. They feed on even smaller plankton, trapping them in a mucus net that the sea butterflies release into the water.
A group of sea butterflies this size was last seen in 1994, and Nature and Park Authority inspector Omri Omessi told The Jerusalem Post that this was the first time in many Israelis’ lives that the creatures have been present in the gulf.
“It’s always fun to see the (Gulf) of Aqaba come to life,” Omessi said. “You are warmly invited to jump into the cool water and experience an extraordinary experience for yourself. The butterflies are in every corner of the (gulf).”
Officials have been unable to determine what made the sea butterflies swarm, but they will continue to study them for as long as they are present.
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