Why this beautiful rainbow sea slug is such an incredible scientific find

  • The rainbow sea slug is beautiful, vibrant, and an extremely rare find.

  • There have only been three previous sightings of the creature in the UK.

  • Experts believe the slugs are adapting to climate change by moving into warmer waters.

An extremely rare creature was discovered in rock pools off the coast of south Cornwall, South West England — and scientists believe there will be more sightings in the future.

The rainbow sea slug — scientific name Babakina anadoni — was found by rock pool enthusiast Vicky Barlow last weekend.

Barlow is a volunteer with the Rock Pool Project, leading "safari" tours of the rock pools on the England coast. She was doing a final survey of the beach when she had a hunch that something interesting was hiding under a particular rock.

"It was quite a large, heavy rock, covered in various seaweeds, and once lifted something extremely bright and unusual caught my eye," Barlow wrote in a blog. "Once delicately placed in a pot to view, the beautiful animal unfurled and revealed itself in full technicolor."

A close up picture of the rainbow sea slug.
Expect to see the slug more often in the UK as waters warm, experts say.Vicky Barlow - @thehidephotography

The slug's beautiful coloring was quite a standout in the pools. And it's only the fourth sighting of the creature in the UK — its typical habitat is the warmer waters off the coasts of Spain, Portugal, and France, BBC News reported.

Rainbow sea slugs are on the move

Discovering the sea slug so far north is probably a testament to climate change. Warming oceans are shifting where these small creatures can survive.

A recent report from the National Oceanography Centre found that sea surface temperatures around the UK have been experiencing a "significant warming trend" of 0.3 degrees Celsius every decade for the last 40 years, CBS News said.

Rainbow sea slug sitting on a rock.
Rainbow sea slugs have been cited farther north than usual likely due to climate change.Vicky Barlow - @thehidephotography

That's because of all the heat-trapping carbon dioxide that humans have pumped into the atmosphere. It's causing global temperatures to rise, and the ocean absorbs much of that excess heat.

The rapidly changing environment is forcing creatures such as the rainbow slug to adapt and find new habitats.

"It's an amazing find and I expect we will see more of them," Ben Holt of the Rock Pool Project told BBC News.

One video shared by the Rock Pool Project shows the rainbow slug in action, moving slowly along a rock surface.

Barlow wrote in a blog that like most nudibranchs — the scientific group of sea slugs this colorful guy belongs to — this specimen "had quite the personality" and puffed its tentacle-like "cerata" to "make itself appear bigger if one of our hands got too close."

Barlow uploaded a record of her finding to the National Biodiversity Network, which she said is the first record of its kind for this colorful creature. Let's hope it's not the last.

Read the original article on Business Insider