Wow is right!
Here's another view:
And another (the branching digestive gland is visible within the cerata cores):
I'm guessing many of you might know what type of animal this is. The next picture will show you the entire animal as we found it on 12 September 2015:
Meet the Santa Barbara Janolus (Janolus barbarensis). Spectacular, isn't it? As the name suggests, this is a southern species whose northern range limit is generally considered to be San Francisco. Above, this nudibranch is shown with bryozoan prey (Bugula sp.)
Because of warm ocean temperatures, Jeff had told us to keep any eye out for this species. Then yesterday, Shawn Brumbaugh (SRJC) and Chris Kwan let us know they had found one at the Spud Point Marina.
Due to its rarity (and beauty), Eric and I went to see if we could find one ourselves. After an hour, Eric's sharp eyes and persistence paid off.
Note that the nudibranch's rhinophores (sense organs) are more yellowish, with slightly darker blue tips:
Here's an even closer view of a rhinophore:
If you're wondering, this individual was between 60-65 mm (2.3-2.5 inches) long — a large nudibranch! (Most books say this species reaches up to 50 mm long.) See below for a view with Eric's thumb for scale:
We were very excited to find this species in Bodega Bay. It sounds like the Santa Barbara Janolus prefers more protected sites, so if there are bays/harbors with docks near you, it might be worth a look!
Many thanks to Shawn and Chris for bringing their discovery to our attention!
ADDENDUM (13 September 2015): Exciting news! Jeff Goddard confirmed that this is a northern record for Janolus barbarensis.