Wednesday 10 January 2018

Ocellate Phyllidia

Image: Bernard DUPONT
Phyllidia ocellata
Oooh, ouch!

I've heard of rashes and boils, spots and pimples, warts and buboes... but clouds? Who comes up in clouds?

Image: Sylke Rohrlach
Phyllidia ocellata, that's who.

So sad. I bet it's always a rainy day when you have clouds attached directly to your back. All those useless umbrellas...

The Ocellate Phyllidia is a nudibranch which reaches about 5 cm (2 in) long and is found in Indonesia, Malaysia and other parts of the West Indo-Pacific.

Your standard Ocellate Phyllidia is orange with maybe five or six black rings. These are the ocelli, or eye-like spots, and each one has one of those fluffy-looking warts at its centre.

Image: Chaloklum Diving
Maximum suds
There are WAY more warts than spots but either way, it's quite the skin condition when you have a huge wart right in the middle of an even bigger spot!

Thing is, not all Ocellate Phyllidia actually have the ocelli they're named after. Sometimes the black rings turn into solid wavy lines and sometimes there's no black colour at all.

Image: Keith Wilson
Minimum suds
Sometimes the warts are orange instead of that strange, fluffy white that looks like something between a snow-capped mountain and a bubble-bath.

That variability means this one nudibranch has been given at least five other names by scientists who didn't realise they weren't looking at an unknown species. And just to add to the confusion, there are several other very similar nudibranchs around who, at least for now, are still thought to be separate species.

Image: Raul -
None of which is of much interest to the Ocellate Phyllidia. They just hang out in coral reefs, eating their favourite sponges while being extremely conspicuous to all onlookers.

They remain unconcerned because, apparently, those warts secrete a noxious substance when disturbed. It's the nudibranch way! And if the Ocellate Phyllidia obtains those noxious substances from its sponge meal, then that would also be the nudibranch way.

Image: Joi Ito
So if you ever find yourself stuck on a deserted, Southeast Asian island, be sure to add this guy to your Do Not Eat list.

You don't want those clouds to rain on your parade.


Emily said...

These things look like some kind of marshmallow candy. I assume they don't taste like it, though...

Joseph JG said...

Yeah, I don't think their intention was to look delicious!