Sea butterflies discovered off the coast of California.
Karen Osborn, a research zoologist at the Smithsonian Institute, has captured a series of never-before-recorded photographs of the fascinating creatures, which she collected while scuba diving off the coast of Mexico and California.
Sea butterflies, also known as pteropods, are related to snails but they use their muscular foot to swim through the ocean rather than creep along the ground.
Osborn snapped them in a shallow tank of clear water, after bringing them back from the open ocean to the Smithsoian’s research ship.
The photographs are helping her fellow zoologists decipher the impact pollution is having on the world’s oceans and the creatures in them.
It is already known that climate change is making our ocean’s more acidic, and this acid is harmful to certain types of pteropods as it dissolves their shells.
Sea butterflies come in different forms, and those without shells are not susceptible to the dangers of ocean acidification.
But the shell-less critters feed on those with shells.
As, such, if the ocean continues to become more acidic, their prime food source could disappear.
This in turn would endanger these predators and all the fish, squid and other aquatic animals that feed on them.