Nudibranchs, The Most Colorful Creatures in the World

Part of the mollusk phylum, Nudibranchs are the shell-less relatives of the snail and are known for their garish colors. These tiny sea creatures are usually only 2cm – 6cm in length and can be found worldwide. They are able to thrive in any depth of salt water from the deepest darkest ocean floors to warm shallow water.

There are over 3,000 known species of nudibranchs, and scientist estimate that only half have been discovered so far. The creatures soft-body and short life span of 1 year make it possible for many of them to live undetected and vanish from the earth without a trace.

Photo by wildsingapore

Nudibranchs are blind, and the animal relies on smell, taste and feel to navigate their surroundings to find coral, sponges, eggs, small fish, and other nudibranchs to eat.

The nudibranchs most exceptional aspect is their incredible color palettes. Some species’ palettes match the dark greens and browns of their ocean surroundings, while others boldly contrast the colors of their habitats. These brilliant colors are an evolutionary development that began when they first shed their shells for other defense mechanisms; either to blend in to their surroundings with camouflage or as warning sign for any animals thinking of dining on a tasty little nudibranch, letting them know of their toxic secretions and stinging cells. As it is, some species dine on toxic sponges which alters and stores the sponges toxic compound in the their bodies and are able to secret them from glands when bothered.

Photo by wildsingapore

Nudibranchs have been studied extensively by scientist looking at their simple nervous systems for clues to learning and memory and their chemical makeup in search of pharmaceuticals.

Photo by wildsingapore
Blue dragon nudibran Hypselodoris sp.
Photo by wildsingapore

Photo by wildsingapore
Cuthona sibogae Pteraeolidia ianthin
Photo by wildsingapore

Photo by wildsingapore
Varicose phyllid Chromodoris magnific

Photo by Raymond™

Photo by Raymond™
another nudibranch Hypselodoris bullock

Photo by Raymond™

Photo by Raymond™
Chromodoris willani Glossodoris atromarg

Photo by wildsingapore

Photo by wildsingapore
Donut Nembrothas yet another

Photo by Raymond™

Photo by wildsingapore
Bornella Pteraeolidia ianth..

Photo by wildsingapore

Photo by Raymond™
Chromodoris annae

For more information and to see an amazing set of photos from David Doubilet check out this nudibranchs feature by National Geographic.

Author: evad
David Sommers has been loving color as COLOURlovers' Blog Editor-in-Chief for the past two years. When he's not neck deep in a rainbow he's loving other things with The Post Family (, a Chicago-based art blog, artist collective & gallery.

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