Sunday 4 October 2015

Gasflame Nudibranch

Image: Graeme Kruger
Bonisa nakaza
They have water-resistant gas fires, now? This opens up a whole new world of camping experiences for the more adventurous traveller!

Now all we need are some water-resistant hot dogs.

Image: Peter Southwood
This beauty is a sea slug found along the southern coast of South Africa. Apparently they don't like it too warm, as they just about keep out of the way of the warm, ocean currents that come in from the Indian Ocean. I guess they make enough heat all by themselves? They sure look like it!

Gasflame Nudibranches typically reach up to 8 cm (3.2 in) long, occasionally as much as 12 cm (5 in), and they're covered in tentacle-like cerata adorned in gas-fire blues and yellows.

Image: Wilhelm
Or... not. As is rather common among nudibranches, Gasflames are quite variable when it comes to their colour. They can be yellow or pink or even aglow in otherworldly, angelic white, sometimes topped with orange tips.

Image: Wilhelm
A pair of Gasflames wonder what their babies will look like
These cerata help the nudibranch increase the surface area of its skin so it can absorb all the oxygen it needs. Not all nudibranches have cerata, but the ones that do usually have parts of their digestive gland poking up into them, too. Gasflames don't, and that makes them unique among all their closest relatives.

It must make it terribly awkward at nudibranch dinner parties. Imagine being the only one who hasn't got food sloshing up to the tips of your cerata. Surely that would be seen as extremely rude in polite, sea slug society, like not burping in all those places where it's polite to burp after a meal.

Gasflame Nudibranches were only described as recently as 1981. Before that I guess people overlooked it because they thought some diver left an oven on. But then microwaves came along and it seemed odd to find an old gas fire in the sea. Perhaps even now there's a Microwave Oven Nudibranch just waiting to be discovered.

Image: Peter Southwood
In any case, Gasflames turned out to be sufficiently different from their relatives to warrant their very own genus. Terry Gosliner, the guy who first named the new species (and apparently a complete nudibranch maniac), decided to name the genus Bonisa, after his wife Bonnie. Awwwwwww!

The specific name, nakaza, is a Zulu word meaning "to adorn with beautiful colours". That's a lovely one for Bonnie. Hopefully any unknown Bonisa species discovered in future will be just as lovely. There's always the risk they'll discover one that simply has to get named after the fact that it looks just like a sexual organ or simply must be named after its particularly odd reproductive strategy.

Image: AndyT
As for the Gasflame Nudibranch, the weirdest thing about their reproductive strategy is they end up depositing a string of eggs that looks like a tiny ball of intestines on a stick.

So no water-resistant hot dogs just yet, but it appears our camp fire creates its very own water-resistant meatballs!


TexWisGirl said...

they are really cool and pretty, until i got to the last pic. that was a bit weird. like cotton candy gone wrong.

BK said...

Any chance of the epomis beetle making it in?

Joseph JG said...

@TexWisGirl: Ha, yeah. Although I'm sure there's a market for cotton candy meatballs somewhere!

@Bk Jeong: Those gruesome customers. Yeah, I'll see what I can find!