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Why Nudibranch are my favourite underwater creature.

Often called a a ‘sea-slug’, these beautiful and colourful creatures are my absolute favourite thing in the world.  What is a nudibranch you ask? Well, a nudibranch is a marine snail that has evolved over the millennia and has lost the shell on its back. There are over 3000 known species and more are being discovered every day.

Nudibranch (“Noody-brank”) literally means “naked gills”. They are quite fussy eaters and sometimes a species will only eat one type of food, and it is their choice of sustenance that gives them their distinctive colouration.   Their diet includes corals, sponges, hydroids, fish eggs and even other Nudibranchs!  The bright colours are used as a camouflage and to warn off predators as they are toxic to most fish but not to humans.  Yes..they are perfect for us divers! Cyprus is bursting with them in the early season, but as the water warms here they start to become a little harder to find, but that’s ok – I like a challenge! If you love these little critters as much as I do then you better book a dive soon so we don’t miss the photographic opportunities that these disco-slugs offer us.

They aren’t the fastest moving creatures, so they don’t stray far from home.  They move slowly using their muscular, snail-like foot and have evolved into hermaphrodites to maximise their breeding potential.  Their eggs are usually bright red, and are found in spirals – you have probably seen some on a dive, but haven’t known what they were. Look out for them,  I will always do a very excited underwater dance when I spot them, and I will point them out to every monkey who takes the plunge with us using the universal diving sign for nudibranch . Do you know what the sign is? I bet the readers who do are making this sign right now – aren’t you?

Their eye sight is not the best either; they use their little tentacles to smell and see the world. They also can use the sun to get nutrients from the algae they eat – they store the chloroplasts and use photosynthesis to transform the nutrients into energy. In my opinion this makes them one of the most “green” creatures on the planet! Depending on the species they can live between just a few weeks to up to a year so enjoy them as much as you can. Keep your eyes peeled and share them if you spot them. Who knows – you may even see one that hasn’t been identified before!

HAPPY HUNTING!!

 

Alex

April 2013

 

 

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