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Monday, September 17, 2007

Qatar Sea Slugs

A New Species?

Below is an image of what is almost certainly a new species of sea slug, though it has yet to be named. The sea slug was discovered by Gabriele Patterson during a Qatar Natural History Group trip, and photographed by Iain Macdonald.

Expert Dr Bill Rudman, who runs The Sea Slug Forum, believes that the tiny scarlet and white creature is likely to be a new species. It bears most resemblance to a sea slug last seen in Pakistan more than a century ago.

A new species of sea slug discovered in a Qatar mangrove swamp.Appearance

As can be seen from both the new species and the images of sea slugs below, these creatures can be far more beautiful than their name suggests. These soft-bodied creatures are more properly known as Nudibranch - which can be translated as either naked gills or as bare lungs.

Their bright colours and patterns are not without purpose. They serve as a warning to hungry fish to leave these slow moving creatures well alone - not without reason, as they contain unpleasant chemicals making their flesh unpalatable to even the most undiscriminating of predators.

Chromodoris Cazae: a white sea slug rimmed with brown and yellow.
Some Strange Habits

Sea slugs are hermaphrodites, containing both male and female sex organs. They still need a partner, as they are unable to reproduce by themselves. Not content with their adventurous sexual habits, these brightly coloured carnivores are also given to cannibalism.

Two colourful sea slugs, Flabellina Rubrolineata, face off on the seabed.
Sea Slugs in the Arabian Gulf

There are more than twenty species of sea slug found in the Arabian Gulf, with one species, Chromodoris Cazae, only being found in the waters of Qatar and the UAE.

A white sea (Chromodoris annulata) slugs lies on coral.

Many thanks to Iain Macdonald for permission to use the images, and to Frances Gillespie for information about sea slugs.

National Geographic Video on Sea Slugs

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