Nudibranch: Beautiful and Toxic Snail of the Sea
Posted by Greg on November 9, 2011
While I was researching for the Cone Snail article, I became interested in the snail aspect of seashells. This got me looking and I came up with another fascinating specimen. There’s no shell, but what beautiful snails! According to National Geographic, “The bottom-dwelling, jelly-bodied nudibranch (NEW-dih-bronk) might seem an unlikely canvas for Mother Nature to express her wildest indulgences of color and form. But these shell-less mollusks, part of the sea slug family, bear some of the most fascinating shapes, sumptuous hues, and intricate patterns of any animal on Earth. There are more than 3,000 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. Their scientific name, Nudibranchia, means naked gills, and describes the feathery gills and horns that most wear on their backs.”
Nature comes up with all sorts of cool ways creatures can protect themselves, and these snails are no exception. “Nudibranchs derive their coloring from the food they eat, which helps in camouflage, and some even retain the foul-tasting poisons of their prey and secrete them as a defense against predators.” (National Geographic).
If you would like to see a nice photo selection of Nudibranch snails, follow this link to the National Geographic Photo Gallery.
Another twist on one of these nudibranch snails is one commonly called a solar powered snail. Some have developed a way to imbed their body wall with living algae. The photosynthesis creates sugars in the algae on which the snail feeds. (Check out the scientific version here.)
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