The abundance of sea hares Aplysia punctata that are on the shoreline continue to interest the public who wonder why they are “dead and dying”, in fact they are there to feed and breed, being hermaphrodites they have both male and female reproductive organs, and can be seen in pairs or chains of connected individuals depositing millions fertilised eggs which will hatch in under a fortnight. There may be some association with abundance with algae especially the green ones such as sea lettuce Ulva lactuta.
Known for squirting clouds of purple dye when disturbed there is a hypothesis that our local abundances may have been a possible source of dye and the how the Banc de Violet derived its name. It is worth noting that value and history of Tyrian purple going back to 1600 BC, a dye obtained from the glands of the shell of the Murex in the Mediterranean and Atlantic and highly praised by the Romans whose purple robes created from the dye defined a position of power and prosperity, which is noticeable still today as a colour preference of tie for many an influential leader, including the former Prime Minister Tony Blair, and even some local politicians have been seen sporting it. The dye was eventually replaced by cheaper alternatives but its use lasted into medieval times.
The modern day value of Aplysia species is in neurobiology in that they have large brain cells (neurons) measuring up to 1mm in diameter, which makes the physiology study of them relatively easy. Research into the species abilities of pain, reflex, and learning are all of value. There are recent findings that Aplysia contain a protein known as cyplasin which is being used as a treatment for skin cancer, the protein has the ability to kill melanoma cells but leave the normal un-cancerous cells untouched, properties which distinguish it from other cancer drugs and promises to be an important weapon against tumors.