Nudibranch (pronounced NEWD-i-brank) belong to the phylum Mollusca, and the class Gastropod. They closely resemble snails without shells (nudibranch translates as "naked gill") and are often referred to as "sea slugs"...a name I particularly detest. Nudibranchs have several common characteristics:
- They are usually very small, many only an inch long
- They are often boldly colored, a warning to potential predators of their foul taste and/or poisonous stings
- They have two rhinophores (antler-like appendages) at the front of the body, used to detect the scent of potential prey. These vulnerable rhinophores can be retracted into a pocket beneath the skin when the nudibranch senses danger.
- They breathe through an exposed gill structure, which helps to idenitfy to which order they belong: Dorids have a plume of gills at their anus. Eolids have finger-like appendages all over their backs called cerata.
- They are carnivorous and eat anemones, bryozoans and sponges
- They only live a maximum of one year