OCTOBER 23, 2021
YOUR WEEKLY DOSE OF WOWZERS AND WONDER FROM THE NATURAL WORLD
If we asked you to think of the most beautiful animal you know, what would it be?
We bet you would all have different answers, but we can almost guarantee that none of you said SLUGS!
This week’s featured creature might change your mind.
Get your wetsuit on because this week, we’re diving in to talk about nudibranchs!
They’re sticky, slimy, squishy, and shockingly pretty!
With more than 3,000 different species known today, nudibranchs (pronounced “noo-dih-bronks”) are gastropods that inhabit the coastal waters of nearly every continent on the planet.
They prefer shallow, tropical waters in most cases, but that’s not always required.
They often vary in size, colour, and sometimes even shape!
Some are slick and streamlined, while others are covered in tiny tentacles or even feather-like appendages!
They come in an equally varied range of colours, from vivid pinks and blues to eye-popping black and white.
With nudibranchs ranging from just 6.3 millimetres (0.25 inches) to more than 30 centimetres (1 foot) long, there are seemingly endless variations to this common variety of sea slug.
Most prefer to live on the ocean floor or in the nooks of coral or underwater cave systems.
There, they slide around on their bellies using a muscular foot—much like the slugs you might find outside your own home—looking for tasty snacks.
They’re mostly blind though. So instead of relying on eyesight, they use a pair of chemical-sensing tentacles called rhinophores to find nearby prey or other nudibranchs to eat.
Nudibranchs can slowly chip away at coral or other harder treats using a curved set of teeth.
But they’re just as happy to eat sea sponges or fish eggs too!
Nudibranchs take the saying, “You are what you eat,” to a whole other level!
They can absorb the dyes and pigments in the things they eat to add to their colours!
Some nudibranchs can even absorb poisons or stinging cells to discourage bigger fish from turning them into snacks!
But perhaps most bizarre of all, nudibranchs can absorb the chloroplasts of underwater plants. These are the cells plants use for photosynthesis.
This means that some nudibranchs generate some of their energy, just like a plant would!
So the next time someone says slugs are gross, be sure to tell them about nudibranchs.
These colourful creatures are the very definition of Wowzerful!
One nudibranch species, glaucus atlanticus, loves to eat jellyfish, such as the Portuguese Man o’ War. It eats their stinging tentacles, using the stingers of the jellyfish for its own defence!
The largest nudibranch on record was found in the Red Sea and measured a whopping 52 centimetres (20.5 inches) long! That’s a whole lot of slug!
Nudibranchs are one of the few living creatures known to regularly inhabit the searing waters around volcanic sea vents. That’s one hot house!
Take a deep breath and then imagine what it would feel like to breathe through your skin! Since nudibranchs lack gills, their skin is their primary way of filtering oxygen from the water around them.
Some cool stuff from around the web we think you and your kids will enjoy.
The Ocean’s Bounty
Enjoy these Wowzerful shots from the Ocean Photographer of the Year contest by Oceanographic Magazine!
Ever wonder how we see colours? This video dives into the science of sight!
American Museum of Natural History | YouTube
We could watch these ladybugs take off over and over again! Watching their wings unfurl is so cool.
Another Perspective | YouTube
A Giant Penguin Discovery
Learn about a new species of prehistoric penguin discovered by a group of kids in New Zealand.
— Terri Guillemets
What fruit do scarecrows love the most?
Today’s email was written by Joshua J. with contributions by Geoff W. and Branden S.
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