Sea butterflies — a unique and beautiful sea creature

Diving in the waters of many seas, including UAE cost, you can see a lot of small but very interesting creatures that have a beautiful name – sea butterflies (or Thecosomata in Latin).

However, it is quite difficult to notice sea butterflies, because they are translucent and have a length of less than one centimeter. These creatures belong to sea snails, which have learned to swim using tiny, wing-like outgrowths called parapodia. Their movement for the observer is very similar to flying, it seems that small creatures really fly through the water like miniature insects. This fact gave the name to these unusual animals. The shells of sea butterflies are almost completely transparent, and they can have a wide variety of shapes – spirals, cones, spheres, etc.

Usually, sea butterflies live at a depth of 25 meters, but sometimes they can be found at a more extreme depth of up to 100 meters. At night, they spend time near the surface, eating plankton. Then in the afternoon they go down to the depths again. They often swim very large clusters, which often can be found near the east coast of Australia. Remember, sea butterflies don’t sting, but contact with them can leave skin irritation.

Sea butterflies are very diverse and numerous creatures. You can meet them in various seas and oceans of the Earth. However, the future of these amazing creatures under threat. The fact is that they are very sensitive to an increase in carbon dioxide level in the water. Due to global warming, the level of this gas in the seas and oceans is gradually increasing (it is estimated that 40% of the CO2 released from the burning of fossil fuels has been absorbed by the oceans), which increases the acidity of the water. This leads to serious damage to the shells of sea butterflies.

Scientists have studied the condition of the shells of sea butterflies, living off the coasts of California and Washington states. Studies have shown that half of them have severely damaged shells. The fact is that thin shells of sea butterflies are made of aragonite, and this is an unstable form of calcium carbonate. This is especially noticeable in cold waters, in which CO2 dissolves better.

According to forecasts, by 2050 the number of sea butterflies with damaged shells will triple. And after a few decades, they can even die out. And this will be a real environmental disaster because sea butterflies are an important part of the global ecosystem and are an indispensable link in the food chain. After all, these tiny animals provide food for many species of fish.

Yuriy Rakhmatullin By Yuriy Rakhmatullin Environment Marine Life