Ocean’s Five: Nudibranch Super Powers


Often brightly colored, always carnivorous, nudibranchs are a wonderful sight to behold for the lucky diver – but there’s much more to these sea slugs than meets the eye. They can also…

Jerry Kirkhart, Creative Commons Attribution

 

1. Run on solar energy: Many species capture single-celled algae, which they “farm” inside their bodies. While providing a safe place for the zooxanthellae, the nudibranch harvests energy from its photosynthesizing cells.

Stephen Childs, Creative Commons Attribution

 

2. Be immune to toxins and stingers: Some species can eat highly toxic sponges. Others prefer stinging jellies and anemones, and are protected from being stung by their coat of mucus.

Silke Baron (prilfish), Creative Commons Attribution

 

3. Steal their prey’s powers: They can retain the toxins of their prey, becoming inedible to their own would-be predators, and keep the stinging cells of animals they’ve eaten in their backs for defense.

Greg Schechter (gregthebusker), Creative Commons Attribution

 

4. Mate with anyone: Nudibranchs are “simultaneous hermaphrodites,” meaning that every mature nudibranch is both a male and a female.

Stephen Childs, Creative Commons Attribution

 

5. Cure cancer? The diverse chemical compounds found in nudibranchs are being investigated for use in pharmaceuticals, and are already leading the way for novel treatments and cures for diseases, including cancer.

 

Laslo Ilyes (Laszlo-photo), Creative Commons Attribution

 

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