June 22, 2006
From: Perry Davis
I found this nudibranch at low tide in very shallow water on flattend seagrass in Swan Bay, Victoria on the15 june 2006. It was a cloudy day and this 30 mm creature was active. Hope you can identify it for me!
Locality: seagrass beds, 200ml, Swan Bay, Bellarine Peninsula, Port Philip Bay, Victoria. Australia, tidal bay, 15 June 2006, intertidal seagrass bed. Length: 30mm. Photographer: Perry A Davis.
Davis, P.A., 2006 (Jun 22) Spurilla australis from Port Phillip Bay, Australia. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from http://www.seaslugforum.net/find/16890
This is Spurilla australis which we often think of as a warm-water, if not tropical, Australian species, but it seems to be found all around mainland Australia. Have a look at the species Fact Sheet for information on the biology of this fascinatingsolar-powered nudibranch. It is able to grow single-celled plants in its digestive system and take advantage of their ability to photosynthesise sunlight into sugars.
In your photos you can see how this solar-powered species has modified its body to assist its 'horticultural' activities. Firstly, its cerata, which are usually cylindrical in aeolids, have become flattened and leaf-like, to provide more sunlit surfaces for the captive plants. You will also see a dark brown network inside the cerata. This network is the highly branched digestive gland, in which the plants [zooxanthellae] are nurtured. Most aeolids have just a single duct in each ceras, but in these solar-powered animals, every extra branch provides an extra place for more plants.
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