NUDI GILL PIN-UP: Glaucus Atlanticus

Hey there! I’m getting May’s NUDI GILL PIN-UP in just under the wire! It’s been a busy time for me. I’ve been putting the finishing touches on NUDI GILL as well as creating art for IN A CAVE, and a few other new picture books in the works! But, I couldn’t let May slip by without mentioning this most magnificent superstar pin-up:

Glaucus Atlanticus

Glaucus_atlanticus_1.jpgTaro Taylor from Sydney, Australia

OI! What A Beauty, RIGHT?

These pelagic nudibranchs were in the spotlight this past winter because thousands of them started washing up along the Queensland coast of Australia. (Remember Australia’s summer runs from December to February, so by winter, I really mean Australian summer). These poisonous sea slugs, also known as Blue Dragons, recently became one more fascinating creature on the long list of Australian fauna that can kill you. Usually these nudibranchs are found in open water nibbling on Blue Bottles, but for some reason they surfed their way to the shores, much to the delight and then horror of summer beachgoers. Scientists are not sure why this happened, but it could be due to a number of factors such as unusually strong tides, shifts in currents, and warming ocean temperatures.

And it’s not over yet! If you’re like me and heading to the US beaches this summer, keep an eye out for blue fleets of these little guys. Since last month there are reports of them washing up along the gulf coast of Texas.

Recently in texas…

Blue Dragons love to feed on the Portuguese Man-O-War (or as they call them in Australia, Blue Bottles). This is how they acquire their deadly neurotoxin venom and lovely blue hues.


Image courtesy of Islands in the Sea 2002, NOAA/OER.

BLUE BOTTLES

Though they are often mistaken for jellyfish, these creatures are siphonophores. This means they are colonial organisms, made up of many smaller units called zooids. The colony works together to operate as a single organism. These dangerous siphonophores have long tentacles that can sting even when separated from the main body. When I was a kid, some floating tentacles wrapped around my legs while I was swimming off the shore of Hollywood Beach, Florida. It was a terribly painful experience that left red welts on my legs for days.

I’m going to geek out a bit with this follow up image which I find to be UBER-fascinating showing what parts of this creature do what.

Catriona Munro, Zer Vue, Richard R. Behringer & Casey W. Dunn, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Now back to the star of this show…

GLAUCUS ATLANTICUS!!!!!

Probably the smallest dragon in history (or mythology), this nudibranch species rarely exceeds 3cm in length. It stores a tiny air bubble in its tummy to stay afloat. When it wants to dive, it simply burps. Now, before you die from that tidbit of cuteness, remember that it’s not called a dragon for nothing. The Glaucus Atlanticus does not produce venom on its own. It stores the venom it ingests from the Blue Bottle’s tentacles. But when Glaucus Atlanticus does decide to sting, watchout! It can inject more poison than the Blue Bottle itself!

Even so, Glaucus Atlanticus is small and vulnerable to predators as it travels in the wide open water column. It uses countershading to camouflage itself like many other sea creatures do. Its bright blue top hides it from predators above, looking down into the deep blue of the ocean, while its light grey underside mimics the sunlit water surface, hiding it from predators below.

Courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library. https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/page/8438459#page/94/mode/1up

Thank you for taking the time to get to know May’s magnificent NUDI GILL PIN-UP, Glaucus Atlanticus. Stay tuned for June’s gorgeous supermodel.

Hooroo!

Bonnie


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.

NUDI GILL PIN-UP: Phylliroe

I bet you’ve been wondering, “Where’s April’s NUDI GILL PIN-UP?” If you haven’t, I understand. There’s a lot going on in the world right now, so it’s easy to forget that we share this planet with tiny creatures that have no concept of politics, inflation, or the latest TikTok dance challenge.

If you’re new to the PIN-UPS, I am blogging every month until the release of my debut picture book, NUDI GILL by Gnome Road Publishing. I am excited to announce that the book’s release will be delayed until March 2023. Why am I excited? Because this means I can share with you SIX additional NUDI GILL PIN-UPS! WOO-HOO!!!

I know everyone’s busy, so I will keep this one short and sweet. Without further ado, allow me to introduce you to April’s open sea supermodel pirate:

Phylliroe

Okay, so there’s a lot to unpack with this nudibranch. When they are babies, they attach themselves to the underside of a jellyfish’s bell and feed like a parasite. They’re kind of like a pirate aboard a ship. Except this pirate munches on the ship (which is alive) until the pirate grows bigger than the ship and then eventually eats the rest of the sails, rigging and even the anchor until there’s nothing left. With a full belly, the pirate then swims along its merry way. They spend their adult life chasing additional ships (jellies/food) on the open seas. Yo Ho Ho! ‘Tis the life, indeed!

This incredible nudibranch is rigged with a flat fishy tail so it can…

Swim like a fish!

Check Them out in action!

The Phylliroe nudibranch is pelagic, which means it lives in the sea column as opposed to near a reef or on the ocean floor. It can easily be swept up in currents, which explains why these critters are found just about everywhere in the ocean.

Here’s a cool old drawing of one. The long spaghetti-like shapes coming from the head are the nudibranch’s rhinophores.

Lydekker R. (ed.) (1896). The royal natural history.

© Mark Norman / Museum Victoria,
http://portphillipmarinelife.net.au/species/5674

DID YOU KNOW?

Did you know that another name for a jellyfish is medusa? The name comes from the gorgon, Medusa, from Greek Mythology. She was the daughter of the sea god, Phorcus. With venomous snakes for hair, she is usually depicted as being beautiful and terrifying at the same time. If mortals looked at her they would turn to stone.

Poor little sea jellies. They get such a bad rap.


Another cool thing about Phylliroe nudibranchs is that they are bioluminescent. That means they have enzymes in their body that can produce light. Glow in the dark, nudibranchs?

Wonders never cease!

Thank you for taking the time to get to know April’s awesome NUDI GILL PIN-UP, Phylliroe. Stay tuned for May’s magnificent supermodel.

Ahoy, mateys!

Bonnie

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.

NUDI GILL PIN-UP: Elysia Chlorotica

To prepare for NUDI GILL, my debut picture book release in September 2022, I am blogging about nudibranchs monthly. I hope you will fall in love with these little critters. Without further ado, allow me to introduce you to March’s fascinating leprechaun-like supermodel:

Elysia Chlorotica

Karen N. Pelletreau et al. – Creative Commons

What just moved in my lucky charms?

This month I just had to deviate from nudibranchs to bring you this special sap-sucking sea slug. Try saying that five times in a row! But, really, who better to feature on St. Patrick’s Day than a creature that looks like a green leaf?

Mary Tyler—Mary Rumpho/University of Maine

This sea slug reminds me of my game: Flora or Fauna?

So what is Elysia Chlorotica?

A plant (flora) or an animal (fauna)?

Dare I say… both?

This little creature, unlike nudibranchs which are carnivores, is truly solar powered. Like a plant. If you don’t believe me, here’s an awesome TEDx presentation by a real scientist, Sidney Pierce. He also talks about the potential for advancements in gene therapy because of what we can learn from this tiny creature. Just a warning, he does say a four-letter word twice (the “s” one), so parents beware. I’m sure he couldn’t help it. It’s pretty exciting science!



This sea slug is green becaue it has chloroplasts inside it. Chloroplasts are the organelles inside plant cells that synthesize sunlight into energy. Chloroplasts are not in animals, they are in plants. Elysia Chlorotica gets their chloroplsats from the algae they eat. But when the sea slug eats the chloroplasts, they are not digested, they keep working!

Figure 1. [Source. © Patrick J. Krug, Creative Commons CC BY-NC 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons]

Not only does this creature behave like a plant, but it looks like one. Imagine if we could just lie in the sun for a few hours to charge our batteries? This is what these guys can do. They can live without food for a whole year because of these functioning chloroplasts inside their bodies.


What kind of music do Sea slugs that look like clovers prefer?

(Answer at end of post.)


When an Elysia Chlorotica is born, it muches on algae. But once it has synthesized the chloroplasts it doesn’t need to eat anymore. There’s a great word for this process: kleptoplasty. It means chloroplast robbery. Cute little thieves they are!

Would you trust a face like this?

These sea slugs can be found in shallow waters along the east coast of North America. When they want to “feed” they simply unfurl their leaf-like body like some kind of organic solar panel and soak up the rays!


Answer:

SHAMROCK!


Thank you for taking time to get to know March’s NUDI GILL PIN-UP, Elysia Chlorotica. Next time you come across a one leaf clover, check it for a head!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone! Stay tuned for April’s awesome NUDI GILL PIN-UP.

May the sun shine warm upon ye,

Bonnie

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 September, 2022. A lover of nature and travel, she often wanders about outside with her family whenever an excellent opportunity to do so presents itself.