Nudibranches, Pacific Northwest
Of all the beautiful creatures that live under the sea, nudibranches are the wonder of them all. They are known as sea slugs, or sea butterflies due to their undulating motion when they swim. I think they are the most beautiful animals in the waters surrounding Vancouver Island.
There are more than 3000 different species of nudibranches all over the world, with close to 200 living in our lslands waters.
Sea slugs rarely reach 15 cm long, though a few species can reach 30 cm. They are quite varied in shape. They have a life span of a year or less, although some more developed species can reach up to 3 years old.
They can be found on nearly every type of marine bottom and can be found in all the seas and oceans of the world, from the Antarctic to the tropics.
Sea slugs are hermaphrodites, they have both male and female sex organs at the same time. As sea slugs move very slowly and are solitary, the chance of mating is not to be turned down, the ability to mate with any other sea slug either male or female is a great survival strategy. They both will receive sperm from each other and both will lay eggs.
After mating sea slugs lay their spiral egg masses on or near the prey they feed on. Normally eggs are white, although the color could change and be pink, orange or red depending on diet. Egg development can take up to 50 days, depending on water temperature.
These little creatures come in many shapes and colors but they are all beautiful, there is nothing like seeing just how incredible they look, they will take your breath away, they will fill you with wonder, the kind you had as a child seeing something you had no idea existed for the first time.