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Wisdom Wednesday | Dorid Nudibranch

Shore Buddies Wisdom Wednesday 10/28/2020

Image of a Nudibranch by Instagram user William Soo
Photo by William Soo

Mexichromis trilineata, or Dorid Nudibranch, is a small species that rarely grows larger than 12 mm. Nudibranchs are grouped with snails and slugs in the class Gastropoda, but they differ from snails by having no shell, or at least a greatly reduced one.  As their name implies, nudibranchs are further identifiable by their naked or exposed gills.  The gills are easily visible on the backs of most nudibranchs. While appealing to the human eye, the main two purposes of these nudi’s intricate patterns and bright colors are defense and camouflage. On dorids, the most common type of nudibranch, there is a feathery tuft of gills located on their back that they can draw into their body for protection if needed. Some nudibranchs that feed on cnidarians like jellyfish, corals, or anemones can ingest the nematocysts (stinging cells) characteristic of the phylum Cnidaria, and incorporate them into the tips of their cerata, allowing them to sting would-be predators as another defense mechanism. These small beautiful sea slugs are found throughout the world’s oceans from the arctic to the tropics.  They can be found anywhere from shoreline tide pools down to some of the deepest reefs explored by SCUBA divers.