There is a group of snail-like animals in the ocean that are among the most beautiful creatures of the sea. With bright colors and an amazing array of shapes, these snail-like animals are known as nudibranchs - sea slugs. The name refers to the fact that they have gills that are naked, and exposed to the surrounding seawater. Most are predators, hunting for meals along the bottom. Catching their prey with a rasp-like tongue. But the member of this group being highlighted here today seeks its food while perched on a stalk of kelp, suspended up in the water column, trying to trap tiny organisms that float by in the current.
The lion nudibranch (Melibe leonina) is found along the Pacific coast of North America from Kodiak Island, Alaska, south to Bahia de los Angeles on the Gulf of California side of Baja California. Prey includes amphipods, copepods, mysid shrimp, other small crustaceans, small mollusks, the larvae of other invertbrates, and in some cases small fish.
Like most other sea slugs, the lion nudibranch is hermaphroditic. They typically live about a year, and die after mutual fertilization and egg-laying.
This photograph was taken at San Miguel Island in the Channel Islands National Park. It was taken with a Canon 10D with an EF 100mm macro lens in an Ikelite housing with twin Ikelite DS-125 strobes. It was shot at f/20, 1/60 sec, ISO 200.