NUDI GILL PIN-UP: Spanish Shawl

With July coming to a close, I thought I’d share some thoughts about this colorful firework of the sea, the Flabellinopsis iodinea nudibranch! I know that’s quite a mouthful of vowels. I guess that’s why a lot of people call this little creature the Spanish Shawl instead.

Flabellinopsis iodinea

Jerry Kirkhart from Los Osos, Calif.

Oooooooh! Ahhhhhhh!

The Spanish Shawl is a species of aeolid nudibranch. I know, I know, more vowels. The aeolid suborder of nudibranch is the second largest next to the dorid nudibranchs. They typically have long tapered bodies, long cephala tentacles on their heads that are distinctly separate from their rhinophores, and clusters of creata respiratory organs that run along their back. Those are the bright orange bits on the photo above.

All these fancy body parts are not only beautiful, but functional as well. Let’s start with those cerata! They do double duty as respiratory system and digestive system. Can you imagine your lungs and stomach in one place? The cerata extract oxygen from the sea water, but they also store stinging cells absorbed through the sea sponges they eat. If a predator tries to eat the nudibranch, the cerata will release the harvested poison within.

Taken in Scripps Canyon, La Jolla, California by Magnus Kjærgaard Category:Opisthobranchia

The nudibranch’s rhinophores sense smell and vibrations in the water. These sensory organs are connected directly to the nudibranch’s brain. The long cephala tentacles are used in a tactile way, feeling around the nudibranch’s environment for food. They wave them ahead as they move forward. This is especially helpful, because a nudibranch has very poor eyesight.

Check out this neat video of Flabellinopsis iodinea in action. They even do a bit of free swimming at the end!

What a Face!

I hope you enjoyed learning about July’s explosively colorful NUDI GILL PIN-UP, Flabellinopsis iodinea, aka the Spanish Shawl. Stay tuned for August’s amazing supermodel.

I vowel to make it worth your time.


Bonnie Kelso writes and illustrates books for children and adults that encourage individualism and brave self-expression. She facilitates art workshops for her local community and beyond. Her debut picture book, NUDI GILL, releases in March, 2023. A lover of nature and travel, she often wanders about outside with her family whenever an excellent opportunity to do so presents itself.

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