• Camron Davis

17 new species of sea slugs named

Researchers at the California Academy of Science recently described 17 "new-to-science" sea slugs in the the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. The study revealed that color mimicry exists within the sea slug world and that "a number of distant relatives...have independently evolved the same color pattern."

Dr. Terry Gosliner, Academy Curator and an invertebrate zoologist who has discovered over one-third of the known sea slugs species, said that "Nudibranchs have always been a marine marvel with their dazzling color diversity...we’re only beginning to understand the evolution of color."

The group of slugs that were the source of these 17 new discoveries belonged to the genus "Hypselodoris."

According to the California Academy of Science, "Two decades ago, Gosliner and Academy scientist Dr. Rebecca Johnson considered species relationships within the group on the basis of anatomy, not color. Now equipped with cutting-edge genetic tools, the team reorganized the family tree for Hypselodoris taking both color and anatomy into account. In the process, they revealed how color patterns arise among—and even within—species."

One of the 17 new species was captured by a "citizen scientist" who inadvertently made the discovery and learned of its significance later on, according to Johnson.

National Sea Slug Day falls on Gosliner's birthday, October 29, due to his work with describing over 1,000 new nudibranch species and mentoring "a new generation of sea slug scientists."

Gosliner said, "We’re always thrilled to discover new sea slug diversity. Because nudibranchs have such specialized and varied diets, an area with many different species indicates a variety of prey—which means that coral reef ecosystem is likely thriving."