There are over 3,000 species of nudibranchs, and new eye-candy species are still being discovered each year. They range in size from a few millimeters to 25 cm long, and can weigh up to 1.5 kilos. Most are pretty small. Coming in an astonishing variety of colors, sizes & shapes, these mellow undulating nudibranchs are found in all the world's oceans, from cold water to warm water.
The nudibranchs have no eyes to see the way a human can see; & what's more they share the mating morals of the uptown urban playboy set. Nudibranchs are anything but monogamous... Like snails & banana slugs, they are simultaneous hermaphrodites -- meaning they embody both male & female reproductive organs. Ergo, without a care in the world, these critters can mate with any other mature member of their specie. Anywhere, any time. Poor nudibranch parents must wring their rhinophores once the kids leave home…
This sea slug often sports brightly colored antennae called – yep you guessed it -- "rhinophores." Marine biologists believe these tiny organs allow the animal to detect chemical “smells” in the water. Rhinophore colors & shapes will vary among species. Other varieties project clusters of fingerlike tubes from their backs, called “cerata,” which they use to breathe, digest food or sting predators. The word “nudibranch” literally translates to "naked gill," because the creature's gills are normally exposed along its dorsal flank.
Most nudibranchs feed on soft corals, snails, anemones, hydroids & various sponges. Nudibranchs often are decked out in dazzling colors, which serve as a warning that they can pack a potent poison. Some nudibranchs store the toxins of the animals they devour -- as an extra self-defense strategy.
To see creatures like these all around the brilliant reefs, if you'd like to visit Palau for example, where we offer wonderful diving live-aboards such as Palau Aggressor, Tropic Dancer, Ocean Hunters I & III -- just give us a shout-out any time...
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Both nudibranch photos atop the blog are by our talented friend, Werner from the Austrian Tyrol.
© Copyright Werner Thiele. All Rights Reserved.
Bottom photo © Copyright Aggressor Fleet & Dancer Fleet / Wayne Works Marine, LLC.