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Gas Flame Nudibranch

The gas flame nudibranch is a unique specimen to behold if you happen to ever get the chance to come across one.

It received this name from the look of its appendages that happen to look like they are glowing like a flame. Not very many individuals have found a nudibranch in order to photograph it, but those who do should feel lucky.

Gas flame nudibraches may look like a member of the slug family, but they are actually mollusks that lack a few organs and a shell that each actual mollusks would have. The term nudibranch refers to a meaning of “naked gills” which explains that they do not have anything to protect themselves. No shell, no gills, no sensory osphradium, and no mantle cavity, all that would help any regular mollusk to survive in the seas. Even though you would think that without any protection, the nudibrach would eventually die out, but in reality scientists and divers have already discovered around 300 different types just in the Western Cape of South Africa.

The survival of these amazing organisms will no longer be a mystery if you happened to be wondering about how they keep going in life. It’s as simple as evolving and adapting. The discarded organs and shell no longer matter when what you have lost is replaced by rhinophores (tentacles that sense chemicals) and a body full of chemicals that taste bad and warning coloration. The chemicals and coloration can usually cause a predator to give up after only a short amount of time.

Nudibraches, gas flame and other, are categorized into two separate groups called aeolids and dorids. Aeolids have finger-like appendages on their backs that take the place of regular gills and can be poisonous as well due to the stinging cells that are often on each of the tips. The cells come from sea anemones that do not become digested and instead travel to the tips for defense. The gas flame nudibranch is one of the largest known aeolids and mostly lives in reefs that aren’t too deep in order to gain easier access to food.

Since this type of creature does not feed on meat based foods, the only other option is to eat algae or other plants/moss. The way it eats the algae is very interesting. It stabs the algae and sucks out all of the contents, leaving nothing behind and though it is not digested, the food provides weeks of nutirition for the nudibranch.

These invertebrates (ones without backbones) come in a variety of sizes and colors, all of which are unique and usually stand out underwater. The flamboyancy of this creature is what makes it so wonderful to look at and people who get to view this specimen cannot help but to stop and stare at it for a few minutes. This mollusk contains both male and female organs inside of them, so during mating both of the mates can be impregnated. The advantage to doing so is the fact that the nudibranch is slow moving and sometimes never mates.