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This is a nudibranch "tambja olivaria". Nudibranchs, also known as sea slugs, are some of the most beautiful and diverse creatures in the ocean. There are over 3000 described species worldwide. Nudibranchs are essentially snails without shells, and their name literally means "naked gill". In most species, the gills are prominently displayed on their dorsal surface. Some kinds of nudibranchs have a tuft of gills located on their back at the posterior end, which are used only for respiration. Other kinds of nudibranchs have many finger-like structures on their back called cerata, which function for gas exchange and often defense.
Sea slugs have a pair of tentacles (called rhinophores) located on top of their heads, which biologists believe are used as sensory organs to assist in finding food and seeking a mate. Many nudibranchs are brilliantly coloured while others are subtly coloured to match their background, thereby providing camouflage.
Nudibranchs are benthic organisms, meaning they live on the ocean bottom. They can be found crawling over rocks, seaweeds, sponges, corals and many other substrates. Sea slugs range from the lower intertidal zone to depths of over 700m (2300 feet). They are found all over the world.
All known nudibranchs are grazing carnivores and as a whole they feed on a wide variety of animals including sponges, hydroids, tunicates, anemones, corals, bryozoans, barnacles, and sometimes other nudibranchs ! Each species of nudibranch tend to be very selective feeders, and may only eat one certain prey species.
Nudibranchs are simultaneous hermaphrodites, which means that they possess both male and female sex organs at the same time. This strategy increases the probability of finding a mate, since every mature individual of the same species is a potential partner (self-fertilization is very rare). After mating, nudibranchs lay their egg masses either on or near the organism on which they feed. These egg masses vary in shape, size and colour depending on species. Some sea slugs lay single coils of eggs, while others are in the shape of a thick ribbon wound into a spiral. The egg masses are often white, but they can also be red, pink, orange or any other colour depending on the species. Egg development can take between 5 and 50 days, and is strongly influenced by temperature. Warmer waters generally result in a shorter embryonic period. Usually the eggs develop first into a larval form called a veliger, which drifts in the ocean currents as plankton. Specific environmental conditions trigger the larvae to settle and metamorphose into the adult form. This larval dispersal is important in the successful exploitation of new areas, since adult nudibranchs move very slowly and cannot travel long distances.
Since nudibranchs have lost their protective shells, they require alternative means of defense. The bright colouration seen in many species is believed to warn potential predators that the nudibranchs contain distasteful or even toxic compounds. Some nudibranchs can also swim short distances when disturbed by predators - they contract their body muscles and undulate through the water while flapping their cerata.
ISO 100, 100mm, f-32, 1/80 s.