Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Spanish Dancer

Hexabranchus sanguineus
When you think of Sea Slugs, you probably don't think about beautiful creatures, but the Spanish Dancer might just be an exception. These members of the Nudibranch order are named for their flowing shape that resembles the moving skirt of a Flamenco dancer!

Spanish Dancers are even beautiful in the way that they lay their eggs. They lay them in a ribbon shaped pattern that, when all assembled, looks like a red rose!

Strange beauty aside, Spanish Dancers are notable because they are one of the few Sea Slugs that can actually swim, albeit only for short distances. They do so by unfolding their wide mantles and undulating through the water. Spanish Dancers are also the largest of all Nudibranches.

Spanish Dancers are carnivores that often eat toxic prey that they are immune to like Sea Sponges and Portuguese Man-O-Wars. Consuming the toxic meals makes the Dancer itself toxic, creating a defense mechanism to keep them safe from their own predators. The "egg-roses" that the Spanish Dancers lay are also incredibly toxic, which keeps predators from eating the developing slugs.

IUCN Status : Not Listed
Location : Indian Ocean and Red Sea
Size : Length 16in (40cm)
Classification : Phylum : Mollusca -- Class : Gastropoda -- Order : Nudibranchia
Family : Hexabranchidae -- Genus : Hexabranchus -- Species : H. sanguineus

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