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Sea Slug: Beauty of the Deep

ESF Top 10 New Species of 2015

  • New species, Phyllodesmium acanthorhinum
    Photograph: Robert Bolland

  • New species, Phyllodesmium acanthorhinum
    Photograph: Robert Bolland

  • New species, Phyllodesmium acanthorhinum
    Photograph: Robert Bolland

  • New species, Phyllodesmium acanthorhinum
    Photograph: Robert Bolland

Sea Slug: Beauty of the Deep

ESF Top 10 New Species of 2015

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About the Sea Slug

Name: Phyllodesmium acanthorhinum

How it made the Top 10:  For this sea slug, the Top 10 competition was more than a beauty contest. It is a “missing link” between sea slugs that feed on hydroids and those specializing on corals. Gastropods do not get more photogenic than sea slugs whose graceful lines and vivid coloration make them beauties of the deep. This new species, which photographs in shades of blue, red and gold, also contributed to a better understanding of the origin of an unusual symbiosis in other species of the genus. Related sea slugs have multi-branched guts in which algae called zooanthellae live. These algae have a primary symbiotic relationship with the corals on which the sea slugs feed. Once sequestered in the gut, the photosynthetic algae produce nutrients of benefit to the host. The newly identified species is an inch long, more or less (17-28 mm), and resides in the Japanese islands.

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum:  Mollusca

Class: Gastropoda

Family: Facelinidae

Size:  17-28 mm

Etymology: The name refers to the spiny appearance of papillae on the surface of the rhinophores or paired smelling organs at front end of body.

Type locality:  Japan, Ryukyu Islands, Okinawa, near Onna Village, Horseshoe Cliffs

Holotype:  California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco

More information: Moore, Elizabeth and Terrence Gosliner. 2014.  Additions to the genus Phyllodesmium, with a phylogenetic analysis and its implications to the evolution of symbiosis.  The Veliger 51: 237-251.

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