In this retrospective I’ve focused on events and photos that were uplifting for me during the difficult year that was. Most of these photos haven’t run before, but were taken at the same time as those in posts that ran in 2020. Links to the original posts are at the end of the captions.
This varicose phyllidia is a small nudibranch, which I saw several times over the course of a week or so. Apart from being a lot smaller than the clumpy nudibranchs I saw a couple of months back, the varicose phyllidia has gills under the mantle skirt rather than in an exposed, wavy clump.
This one was two to three inches long. In the middle photo, the tiny white-spotted toby and small brown surgeonfish give a sense of scale.
My local snorkeling spot has been roiled with excitement lately over the appearance of a couple of clumpy nudibranchs. Well, it’s exciting for us.
Nudibranchs (pronounced noo-di-branks or noo-da-branks) are members of the sea slug family. Granted this doesn’t sound too exciting, but nudibranchs are strange and exotic and often wildly colorful. The reason I haven’t posted photos of a nudibranch before is that I’ve never seen one before, let alone got a photo of one. That’s the downside of nudibranchs; they tend to be on the small side. One to three inches is typical for most of them. But clumpy nudibranchs are big, up to 10 inches long. In nudibranch world they’re like King Kong, visible from space.
When they were first spotted, I didn’t see them, but I was on high alert. And then, one day, I saw my first nudibranch. I popped up and called to my wife, only to see her waving at me to come see the nudibranch where she was. So this established that nudibranchs are like buses; you wait and wait and wait, then two come along at the same time. Since then, I’ve seen one or both of them most days I get in the water. Each time I’ve seen either of them they’ve been motoring along at speed, at least for a slug.
Clumpy nudibranchs have some color variations which can be seen in these photos. One has more yellow coloring, the other (second photo) being browner. The order’s name, Nudibranchia, means naked gills. These are the feathery clumps to the rear of the nudibranch. The two protuberances at the front are sensory organs. Clumpy nudibranchs feed mainly on sponges (not the cake variety).
This colorful little creature is a sea slug. As with many other nudibranchs, the bright coloring serves as a warning. They’re poisonous and, because of this, have no known predators. One tidbit I found interesting is that nudibranchs like this Varicose phyllidia, don’t produce their own poisons. Instead, they ingest toxins from their prey, such as sponges, and recycle it. So not just yellow and black and pale blue, but green as well.