A rare pair of deep sea mice – bizarre-looking worms which are covered in rainbow-coloured hairy spines – are being looked after at Portsmouth’s Blue Reef Aquariumafter being spotted stranded on the beach following stormy weather.
The sea mice were spotted by a former aquarist at the Southsea wildlife attraction. Seeing that they were still alive, and recognising their rarity, she took them to the aquarium to recover.
Also known as Aphrodita, after the Greek goddess of love, sea mice have been discovered living on the seabed at depths of up to 3,000 metres.
Blue Reef Aquarium’s Hannah Butt said: “Sea mice are rarely seen as they often live in the deep ocean, spending most of their time hidden in the sand on the sea-floor.
“To find one specimen is unusual, but to discover two alive together on dry land is pretty extraordinary. We’ve placed them into one of our rock pool displays and they appear to be none the worse for their ordeal.
“It looks like stormy weather out at sea has stirred up the sediment on the seabed and the sea mice have been carried on to shore by the currents and tides.”
Despite its benign appearance, the sea mouse is a successful hunter which feeds on a diet of small crabs and other worms. It has been observed consuming a worm three times its own size.
Sea mice have deep red spines which appear to change colour to startling iridescent blues and greens as light moves across them. This extraordinary light show is believed to deter would-be predators from attacking them.
It is thought the fur-like hairs may prevent the sea mice from getting clogged with mud and sediment.