It’s December, and there are lights on houses and in trees inside. The days are shorter, but hopefully made brighter by holiday cheer.
The ocean, especially the ocean that sees light, is decorated with beautiful treasures as well, if you know where to find them.
Today I will focus on one of the ocean’s small delights, the nudibranch.
Nudibranchs are soft bodies mollusks, often incorrectly called sea slugs (they can be slooowww movers). They are renowned for their oftentimes dramatic coloring and adorable (to anthropomorphize) facial expressions. Some nudis are smaller than your pinky fingernail (but can be as long as 3 feet), and to find them, one must truly look for them, and look well.
So what does a nudibranch do? I think the question might better be phrased as, what don’t they do? Nudibranchs are found in water as deep as 2500m, and as a shallow as the ocean surface. Most of them crawl on substrate, but some of them are pelagic. Both male and female openings are located on the right side of the body (they are hermaphroditic). They have head tentacles that touch, taste, and smell, and rhinophores that detect odors.
Adult nudibranchs are without shells (they are naked), since they shed their shell once they exit the larval stage. They are some of the most colorful and unique ocean inhabitants. In fact, some of their color comes from the prey that they eat (color, fish eggs, etc). Not only can nudibranchs collect color from their prey, they can also collect and secrete venom from their prey, proving them to be pretty resourceful.
TO top it all off, on top of being beautiful, versatile, hermaphroditic, naked, and hidden in plain sight, two species of nudibranchs emit sounds that the human ear can hear.
nudis for president 20/20
merry christmas, happy holidays,