Sea creature of the week!

Oct 03 2011

Blue Dragon Nudibranch

Scientific Name: Pteraeolidia ianthina

Family: Glaucidae

Home: These beautiful sea slugs can be found the near the reefs and coral rubble of the Southwestern Pacific ocean. Their habitat stretches from the shores of Hawaii to those of the Philippines and Northeastern Australia.

Physical characteristics: Our little friends grow to be about 2 inches in length. Their long, narrow, jelly bodies are translucent tan. They have clusters of finger-like ceratas sprouting all along the length of their body. These ceratas have distinct coloring ranging from lavender to dark purple to blue to golden brown. The Blue dragon Nudibranch’s distinguishing characteristics are the two purple bands on its long oral tenecals. It also has two feathery pieces called rhinophores protruding from its head which helps it “smell” and locate food.

Food: This amazing creature enjoys munching on hydroids, particularly Ralpharia. It also ingests zooxanthellae which are microorganisms commonly found on the stinging cells of the Man of War jellyfish. The zooxanthella are stored in sacs in our sea creature freind’s “fingers” giving it its brilliant color (the youngsters of the clan are white!). This arrangement is mutually beneficial since the Blue dragon offers the zooxanthellae protection while the zooxanthellae provide them with nutrients obtained through photosynthesis. Many believe that these adult sea creatures can go a long time without feeding; living solely of the offerings provided by their microorganism guests!

Fun Facts:

This particular type of nudibranch tends to hang out in shallow waters so it can catch more rays. This translates into increased production of nutrients by the photosynthetic zooxanthellae!

• Beware these sea creatures may be tiny and beautiful but they are extremely toxic. Their source of poison: the stinging cells on the Man of War jellyfish!

• These seas slugs lay their eggs on floating objects or animals where the young stay and develop until they have their own air sacks that enable them to float!

Leave a Reply