Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Nudi Gallery

I had to chuckle the other day when I got a message from someone who had read my blog, and then gone on to look at my underwater pictures on my smugmug site. She said she thoroughly enjoyed reading my articles, and liked the pictures, up until she saw that I had a Nudi gallery on my smugmug site. She said she was so disappointed that I had to put pictures like that on there. Now I'm assuming here that she didn't actually look at the pictures, but just assumed that they were nude pictures of humans. If she would have looked, she would have seen that indeed they are nude pictures, but of nudibranchs, a type of sea slug. These fascinating creatures come in almost every conceivable color and shape. They make great subjects to photograph, and there is a lot of interest in them as far as divers and underwater photographers go. The top picture is a pair of mating Halgerda guahan nudibranchs. Yes they are named for the island Guam, or Guahan. Oh great, now someone is going to complain that I have sex pictures on my site too!

This is another nudibranch, it's called a Hexibranchus sanguineus, or commonly referred to as a Spanish Dancer. This nudibranch is about a foot long, and quite a sight on a night dive, it certainly adds a splash of color when contrasted on a brownish rock or patch of sand. If you'll look at the left edge of the picture, you'll notice two little horn like objects protruding from the nudibranch, those are it's rhinopores, sort of like antennae. Then toward the back of the animal it looks like an orange broccoli patch, those are it's gills. These are incredibly fascinating creatures, and as you'll see, they vary greatly from one species to the next.

I stumbled across this next nudibranch crawling across the sand at Lau Lau one day, it's a Ceratosomo Miamirana, and according to the Nudibranch book by Helmut Debelius, it is a very uncommon nudibranch, and there isn't much known about it. Fortunately I did manage to get about 100 pictures or so of it. I find you always want to take way more pictures than what you actually want, because you're never sure what's going to turn out. Again, you can see this guy's rhinopores on the ride side of him, with his gills looking like a radar array on the left end. The distinctive features on this one are the tiny blue spots just behind the rhinopores.

While this next nudibranch looks very similar to the ones in the first picture, it is distinctly different. You will notice this one has yellow dots, and has 2 yellow lines circling the outer edge of his body. This is a Halgerda malesso, and again a fairly uncommon nudibranch, but we seem to have a good supply of them here in the Mariana Islands. If you look carefully on night dives at Grotto or Lau Lau, you might see one of these crawling along the coral walls. They are anywhere from 2-4" longand about 2" wide. You might also find them under ledges or in dark holes during the day, but they look to stay tucked away during daylight hours.

And this nudibranch is named for a couple divers on Guam that have done extensive research on nudibranchs, Clay Carlson and Patty Jo Hoff. This is a Phyllidia carlsonhoffi. How cool is is to have a nudibranch named after a couple divers on our neighboring island? I could show you dozens of other nudibranchs we have here, but I think you get the point. Some of my pictures will be used in Rudie Kuiter's upcoming book, Nudibranchs of the World, and you can also see some of them on Erwin Kodiat's nudibranch website, Nudi Pixel at http://www.nudipixel.net/pictures/photographer/harry_blalock/ And if you'd like to see some of the other nudibranchs I have pictures of, you're welcome to check them out on my Smugmug site at http://saipandiver.smugmug.com/gallery/2885209

Now I probably have you totally convinced I'm some kind of sea slug nerd for knowing the names of all those sea slugs, but hey, I do have a nudi gallery on my website!