Friday, July 22, 2011

Nudibranchs, Abalone, and Rockfish! Oh, my!!


As the new summer/fall intern here at PTMSC, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Chris Hays, and this is me:

Just kidding. Here I actually am:

You can see a resemblance, right?

Apart from introducing myself, I would like to thank everyone at PTMSC for being gracious, patient, and teaching me so much in such a small amount of time. Special shout out goes to the four wonder women: Heather, Valerie, Jess, and Julia. They are truly special, and they are pretty smart, too.

Next on the agenda, I would like to spread some of the frankly, quite amazing tidbits of knowledge I have learned in my first month here at PTMSC. I came here having dealt mainly with terrestial mammals and amphibians, so learning some marine ecology has really been enlightening!

First off, a little bit about nudibranchs (pronounced nudi-brank). Nudibranchs were the first animal that really caught my eye, because I had never heard of them before, they are particularly colorful, and incredibly voracious. Actually, let me back up a bit. Nudibranchs belong to the Class Gastropoda in the Phylum Mollusca. They are unlike many of their closer relatives in that they represent an evolutionary trend towards reduction, and eventually complete loss of their shell. Nudibranchs are mainly hermaphroditic and predatory... a particularly terrifying combination. In fact, the Shaggy Mouse Aeolid eats its own weight in Plumose anemones a day!

The first characteristic that most people notice about nudibranchs is their coloration, as seen here:

Clown Dorid
 And here:

Sea Lemon
And here:

White Dendronotid, or maybe a Variable Dendrotonid?
I am not sure. I am kinda new-to-branchs.

This type of coloration is called aposomatic coloration. So, much like Monarch butterflies, and Coral snakes, they are letting other potential predators know they are poisonous, or venomous through their dramatic coloration. Some nudibranchs rely on a different type of coloration, mimicry. Individuals who use mimicry tend to resemble a specific feature of the environment around them, or a co-occuring species in their area. It can be equally stunning: 

Not sea lettuce, but a Hedgpeth's Sapsucker. Got ya, right?

Currently, we have a few species of Nudibranch on display at PTMSC. These include the Leopard Dorid and Sea Lemon.

Next, I would like to talk about some of the rare species on display here at PTMSC.

I know personally I have a soft spot for a good underdog story, and there are few animals that fit this description as well as the Northern (Pinto) Abalone does. Northern Abalone are marine snails that range from Alaska to California. Unfortunately, their range has decline greatly in many areas, including Washington state, where they are functionally extinct in the wild. The reason for this decline is that Abalone are broadcast spawners, so they release their eggs and sperm into the water, and hope for fertilization. With fewer adult abalone present eggs and sperm just can't meet! So come see our abalone, which are hatchery raised, but still amazing nonetheless.

For clarification, in Washington state, Pinto abalone are being raised in hatcheries for reintroduction into Puget Sound, because it takes roughly 1.5-2 years for abalone to be large and resilient enough to survive in the wild. In fact, this year 2,500 abalone were introduced into the waters around Anacortes and Port Angeles. If you would like to learn more about the reintroduction efforts, visit
Our lonely abalone.

Another rare animal that we have on display here is the Brown Rockfish. There are about 30 species of rockfish in Puget Sound (Salish Sea), and 3 of these species are currently on the Endangered Species List: the Canary and Yelloweye are "threatened", and the Bocaccio is "endangered." One main cause for their predicament is that they are bottom feeders that tend to stay in one area all, or most, of their lives; so they are relatively easy to catch. Also, too many large female rockfish are being harvested which is limiting the number of eggs being introduced into the population. A large female can produce around 700,000 eggs, compared to a smaller female, who might produce closer to 5,000.

Our Brown Rockfish is feeling blue...

Come to PTMSC to find out more about our missing rockfish!

So that about wraps up my first blog. Lastly, I would like to thank Julia, Americorps extroidinaire, for her info on Abalone and Rockfish. I hope everyone is having a great July, and I look forward to talking to you again soon.

Chris Hays
PTMSC Marine Naturalist Intern

For more information:
Eastern Pacific Nudibranchs: David Behrens, Alicia Hermosillo

1 comment:

  1. Hi Chris -

    Great Blog - do some more before you dissappearate.

    The gorgeous nudi is a Janolus fuscus (often confused with opalescent nudi's (Hermissenda crassicornus. )

    See, you're not the only nerd out there! Soon, Karen De


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