Thursday, March 27, 2008

Nudibranchs Are Back!

I have absolutely no idea what this is, I'm guessing it's some kind of coral colony, but I've never seen it before. I was outside of the Grotto and went over some of the big boulders that come up almost to the surface and it was on the top of one of them, so it was only in a couple feet of water. I was struck by the vibrant, brilliant purple color, it almost seemed fake it was so bright and colorful. I wanted to stay and just study it for a while, but with the waves the way they were, I was lucky to get a couple pictures of it that turned out. After spending an hour or so outside of the Grotto just looking around, I went back in to see if there were any nudibranchs just waiting to get their pictures taken.
It seems that most of the nudibranchs went into hiding for the last few months, but this past weekend they were back in full force. I believe this big guy is a Phyllidia carlsonhoffi, they have quite a few variations in the species, some with yellow on the raised bumps, this one had pure white bumps and yellow rhinopores.
I have been seeing the occasional Halgerda malesso for the past few weeks, but this week they seemed to be back in full force, I saw 7 of them on this one dive. They are one of my favorite nudibranchs to take pictures of, their intricate patterns and raised yellow bumps make them very distinctive.
This is a Phyllidiella granulata, and it's only the 3rd time I've seen one, but it's been in the same general vicinity every time, so I think I'm getting a pretty good idea of where to find them now. This is a fairly large nudibranch, at nearly an inch and a half. They are pretty easy to spot since they are so white, and it stands out in such contrast to what they are on.
Then I spotted another Halgerda malesso who was just moving away from this egg ribbon she had evidently just laid, it looked very fresh, no rips or tears in it. I guess we can now declare that mating season is officially open once again for our gelatinous little buddies.
And after looking for a while, I came across Halgerda guahan as well. Usually this is the one I see the most of, but this time I was seeing a lot of Halgerda malesso and this was the only guahan I saw on this dive. He was feeding on some little white sponges.

It's also been a while since I've seen the Chromodoris lochi around, but I've seen them for the last 2 weeks in a row now. I also got some of my pictures of these published in Neville Colemans Nudibranch Encyclopedia which just came out recently. Ours are distinctly different in coloration than any of the others that I've seen. I posted pics of this one on and just learned that it's not a Chromodoris lochi after all, but they have now identified it as a Chromodoris colemani. It really doesn't look much like the other pics of Chromodoris colemani I've seen, but they are the experts, so this is now officially Chromodoris colemani Then as I was looking around the rope rock, I spotted a very, very tiny little purple thing. It was so bright and distinct that I figured it must be a Ptereolidia ianthina, but it was so small I couldn't tell with my naked eye. Once I got home and blew it up on the computer I discovered that it was indeed a baby Ptereolidia ianthina. I haven't seen any of the adults around for several months, but now I've discovered proof of their offspring, so that was pretty exciting. I've had quite a few people ask me if I'd be willing to take them on a nudibranch dive in the Grotto, and it looks like we're just about back to that season again, so just let me know when you want to go finding the little critters.