Nudibranchs aka Sea Slugs
Have you ever seen a slug on land in the garden? For those of you that have seen this odd animal would probably agree that slugs are not pleasant looking. Unfortunately for land dwelling slugs, they were not born with beauty in their DNA.
However, there is hope for marine slugs. These slugs, or more commonly known as “Nudi Branch”, provide a most captivating display of colors and patterns. The term Nudi Branch actually means “Naked Gills”. This title was given because of their distinctive ability to push their gills out of their bodies to breath.
The only problem with this is that by having soft bodies and exposed gills, this leaves the slow-moving creatures vulnerable to be served up as an easy meal, right? Well, besides the vibrant colors that warn off most hungry predators, the Nudis have a few more tricks up their sleeves.
Most species of Nudi reach their growth potential at only a few inches long. Their generally small size and slow movements have forced some to adapt a most unique defense mechanism of stinging cells. Stinging cells similar to that of a jelly fish or hydroids. Even though this doesn’t sound very unique, the Nudis aren’t born with these stinging cells. In fact, they steal the stinging cells from their food! Very much like the infamous and very dangerous Portuguese Man of War. Nudis are one of the only creatures on the planet that can not only ingest these powerful cells, but turn around and use them a defense as well.
Nudibranchs eat using a radula. They are carnivorous, so their prey includes sponges, coral, anemones, barnacles, fish eggs and slightly disturbing – other nudibranchs. They are very picky eaters — individual species or families of nudibranchs may eat only one kind of prey.
Fact: There are more than 2,000 known species of nudibranch, and new ones are being identified almost daily. They are found throughout the world’s oceans, but are most abundant in shallow, tropical waters.