Nature Blows My Mind! The Flamboyant Sea Slug

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Nudibranch, or what we usually call sea slugs, blow my mind. Ever since spotting one for myself during a tide pool trip about a year ago, I've been fascinated with these creatures. I think of them as the drag queens of the sea: flashy stand-outs that are always dressed to the nines.

The one I found is a Hermissenda crassicornis -- the flashy little thing pictured below with bright pinkish-orange cerata waving like a feather boa and neon blue outlines around its tentacles.

© Jaymi Heimbuch

But this is not exactly an example of what all nudibranch look like. The thing about these critters, the really mind-blowing part, is their incredible, almost unimaginable diversity -- yet each with their own vibrant flare, like they were all dreamed up by an artist on acid.

prilfish/CC BY 2.0
prilfish/CC BY 2.0
Elias Levy/CC BY 2.0
Bill Bouton/CC BY-SA 2.0
Derek Keats/CC BY-SA 2.0

See what I mean?

From Wikipedia:
"A nudibranch /ˈnjuːdɨbræŋk/ is a member of what is now a taxonomic clade, and what was previously a suborder, of soft-bodied, marine gastropod mollusks which shed their shell after their larval stage. They are noted for their often extraordinary colors and striking forms. The clade Nudibranchia is the largest clade within the heterobranchs, with more than 3,000 described species."

You read that right -- over 3,000 species and more are discovered all the time. They're not only diverse, but they're everywhere. Species can be found all over the world and at virtually all depths of water, though you're most likely to find them in shallow waters like tide pools and coral reefs.

And part of the flamboyance is because they are in coral reefs. They can blend into the equally bright corals, or they stand out as a warning to predators that they're poisonous.

Elias Levy/CC BY 2.0
Tchami/CC BY-SA 2.0
Stephen Childs/CC BY 2.0

Nudibranch are incredible, and fit squarely in the "Nature Blows My Mind" category of the world. We've dedicated a slideshow to these special creatures for your viewing pleasure. Next time you're at a tide pool or swimming over a coral reef, keep an eye out for something small but incredibly flashy.

What makes you say "WHOA!"? Tell us on on Twitter with #natureblowsmymind. We may feature your mind blowing suggestion later in the series!

Tags: Nature Blows My Mind | Oceans