October 8, 2007
From: Leanne & David Atkinson
We found this tiny nudibranch in amongst some brown algae. We moved it out onto the sand to get some clearer shots. It's not one we've seen before in our diving at Port Stephens. Is it Spurilla australis? It looks similar to the ones on the site and you mentioned that they are usually found near brown algae. The rings on the end of the cerata seem to vary a bit amongst the specimens photographed. Can you help us identify it? You don't have one from Port Stephens on the site so this may add to your range information.
Locality: The Pipeline, Nelson Bay, Port Stephens, 8 metres, New South Wales, Australia, Pacific, 01 October 2007, Silty, sandy bottom with scattered sponges, soft corals, kelp, ascidians and gorgonias. Length: 5 mm. Photographer: Leanne & David Atkinson.
We were worried after the big storms and floods of June that the Port Stephens area may take some time to recover, however there seems to be plenty of nudibranchs around now.
Leanne & David Atkinson
Atkinson, L.& D., 2007 (Oct 8) Spurilla australis from Port Stephens. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from http://www.seaslugforum.net/find/20880
Dear Leanne & David,
Yes this is Spurilla australis. This is a solar-powered species which 'farms' dark brown zooxanthellae in its body, and the greater the population of its zooxanthellae, the darker is the colour of its body. The zooxanthellae are stored in specialised branches of the digstive gland which form a network of tubes throughout the body wall and skin, as well as the cerata. The middle right photo is a close-up showing the network of branching ducts in the skin of the left rhinophore and the side of the head.
I am glad to hear the influx of freshwater from the June rains only had short-term affects on the marine environment. Unfortunately, the lack of follow-up rains, which has been a blessing for the marine fauna, has at the same time been a disaster for the farming communities of eastern Australia.
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