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Popeye the Nudibranch

November 24, 2013

nudibranchNov2013Just Google nudibranchs to find the most remarkable collection of diverse animals–all variants on the sea slug, a mollusk that lost its shell. A good example of degenerative evolution, followed by morphological innovation. At left creeps Chromodoris annae, from the collection of Sergey Parinov. Why all the bright colors? Most nudibranchs have evolved nasty-tasting substances in their skin; and the colors warn predators to back off. Some nudibranchs go farther, displaying the nematocyst stinging cells from aneomones they munch on.  The nematocysts last enough to protect the nudibranch (after failing to protect the anemone? Hm.)

At right, though, the “solar-powered sea slugPlacida dendritica gets its color from the chloroplasts of digested algae. The sea slug ingeniously manages to digest only the algal cytoplasm, while leaving the chloroplasts intact for months, conducting photosynthesis.
Imagine what Popeye could do if he digested only spinach cytoplasm, while storing all the chloroplasts–Solar-powered muscles!

Have a good holiday, whether turkey or tofurkey is on your table.

  1. Hillary Rettig permalink
    November 25, 2013 8:20 am

    These were fun! I like getting a wee shot of science in the mornings.

    The Placida reminds me of the Dale Chihuly piece in Boston MFA:

  2. November 25, 2013 8:29 am

    Uncanny resemblance!

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