While envisioning myself in Australia, I had pictured myself interacting with all kinds of animals and seeing all sorts of natural wonders. So many of my visions became realities, but there was one reality that I never dreamed of. For years I have told my students about nudibranchs, and Australia delivered some colorful NUDIES!
Nudibranchs (thrown in with sea slugs) can take on different area toxins for defense when they are in a new area. I confirmed with Julie at Reef HQ that they also have an adaptation where they can migrate spines from echinoderms (like urchins and sea stars) into their own back for defense. How awesome is that? They free form where these spines go, and do not necessarily follow a common species pattern. Plus they are absolutely beautifully colored. I've had a long-time obsession with nudibranchs, but have never seen them in my Southern California dives.
A SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THE NUDIE POPULATION OF AUSTRALIA!