When I was attending the University of Oregon I read a post on the Landscape Architecture bulletin board seeking a Graduate Teaching Fellow to go to the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology for one quarter.
I jumped on it, and it changed the way I view the world.....
There are incredible creatures
in the ocean and the coast,
but these are awesome and almost fantasy-like in their forms and coloring.
A nudibranch is a member of what is now a taxonomicclade, but used to be a suborder, of soft-bodied, shell-less marine opisthobranch gastropodmollusks, which are noted for their often extraordinary colors and striking forms. The clade Nudibranchia is the largest clade within the heterobranchs, with more than 3,000 described species.
The word "nudibranch" comes from the Latin nudus, naked, and the Greek brankhia, gills.
Nudibranchs are often casually called "sea slugs", a non-scientific term. This has led some people to assume that every sea slug must be a nudibranch. Nudibranchs are very numerous in terms of species, and are often very attractive and noticeable, but there are a wide variety of other kinds of sea slugs, and these belong to several taxonomic groups that are not very closely related to nudibranchs. A fair number of these other sea slugs are colorful, and can be confused with nudibranchs.
Among this group can be found the most colorful creatures on earth. In the course of evolution, sea slugs have lost their shell because they have developed other defense mechanisms. Their anatomy may resemble the texture and color of the surrounding plants, allowing them to camouflage (cryptic behavior). Others, as seen especially well on chromodorids, have an intense and bright coloring, which warns that they are distasteful or poisonous (aposematic coloration).
Nudibranchs that feed on hydroids can store the hydroids' nematocysts (stinging cells) in the dorsal body wall, the cerata. The nematocysts wander through the alimentary tract without harming the nudibranch. Once further into the organ, the cells are brought to the specific placements on the creature's hind body via intestinal protuberances. Nudibranches can protect themselves from the hydroids and their nematocysts. It is not yet clear how, but special cells with large vacuoles probably play an important role. They can also take in plants' chloroplasts (plant cell organelles used for photosynthesis) and use them to make food for themselves.
Another method of protection is the release of a sour liquid from the skin. Once the specimen is physically irritated or touched by another creature, it will release the slime automatically.
- from Wikipedia
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