Sometimes the most exciting things are hiding right in front of you, just waiting for you to see. Marine biologist Jeff Goddard knows this quite well after he discovered a new species of nudibranch in a California tide pool in 2008. What he stumbled across was a fiery-colored nudi later named Flabellina goddardi while searching for another sea slug in Carpinteria State Park just south of Santa Barbara.
With his exciting new discovery, Goddard took the 3cm (1.2 in.) critter to the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Marine Science Institute. It wasn’t long before the hermaphroditic nudibranch laid a lace-like mass of eggs that later hatched.
Although the hatching was a treat to the biologist, it was not necessarily a big surprise since the transparent nature of the creature allowed him to get a preview of what to come. As with most things Mother Nature does, the lacey egg laying has a purpose — allowing adequate oxygen to reach each of the thousands of eggs.
The discovery itself and more importantly its location, just goes to show “there are still many species, especially in the oceans—even ones in our backyard—that haven’t been described,” said Goddard in an interview for National Geographic.
“People are interested in butterflies and birds and brightly colored [animals],” he adds. “This is the marine equivalent of butterflies.”
We can’t agree more. While the brilliant colors and shapes of coral and fish often pull us to the hobby, the oceans provide plenty of subtle and vibrant beauty unexpectedly in the strangest of places. The new sea slug species is formally described in the September 15 issue of the journal Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences.
[via National Geographic]