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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Fiery and flamboyant

One of the goals of this blog is to introduce you to animals that you might not be aware of.  Because of that, some of the species I've highlighted are inconspicuous, small, or hard to see.  That is not the case with this species.

Another goal of this blog is to record observations that are unusual.  This species falls into that category.

Meet the Spanish Shawl (Flabellina iodinea) a flamboyant nudibranch that's much more common in southern California.  They have been found from the Galapagos Islands to British Columbia, but they're rare north of San Francisco.  And in fact, there are no records for Oregon, and there's only one record for Washington.  (Thanks to Jeff Goddard for this information.)

Below is a close-up of the anterior end, showing off the amazing colors: blue tentacles, red rhinophores (sense organs), orange cerata (projections on the back), purple body.

Here's a picture of the cerata.  Because they're in clusters and are of varying lengths, they remind me of flames.

Spanish Shawls are known for their swimming abilities.  To move among sites, or to escape predators, they swim with dramatic U-shaped undulations flexing one way and then the other, and repeating this over and over again.  I captured one sequence to give you a feel for this motion:

Eric spotted one individual (~5 cm long) at Pinnacle Gulch on 18 May 2015.  Then Jason discovered another small individual on 19 May 2015.  Because they're so rare in this region (this is the first time we've seen them in Bodega Bay), we also took some close-ups of the smaller one for documentation: 

It's hard to believe this very tropical-looking nudibranch found its way to northern California!

If you see any Spanish Shawls during your coastal adventures, I'd love to hear about it and it would be great to compile sightings in northern California.


Alice Chan said...

They are SO beautiful! And you can certainly see how they got their name!

Emily said...

I saw a twitter post that they have been seen as far north as Humboldt! (https://twitter.com/MSidKelly/status/601066643687538689)