If you’ve ever scuba-dived under Blairgowrie pier or taken a close look at a clump of seaweed on a rock-pool ramble you may have been lucky enough to spot one of these extraordinary creatures.
These tiny "butterflies of the sea" are actually related to snails, though as most are lacking a shell their common name 'nudibranch' refers to their naked or exposed gills.
Our local marine parks and sanctuaries play host to a huge variety of over 400 nudibranch and related animals, from bubble shells, sea hares, side-gilled and sap-sucking slugs, to the true nudibranchs.
The expert when it comes to all of these is the one and only Robert (Bob) Burn. With over 60 years spent collecting, observing and studying these animals, Bob has channelled a life-time of work into creating a fantastic new field-guide (Nudibranchs and related molluscs) to introduce us to these gorgeous marine critters.
Thanks to Bob’s knowledge of the group, and the amazing contributions of many talented collectors and photographers, the guide is filled with fabulous images, descriptions, identification keys and fun facts to help any keen amateur naturalist, diver or photographer.
A fun fact you ask? How about their ability to collect deadly nematocysts from their cnidarian food sources and squirrel these away for future defence? Or their reproductive strategies from hermaphroditic mating to gathering in "frothy orgiastic groups"?
With gorgeous colours, stripes, spots and fringes, many nudibranchs are also extremely good at hiding, so next time you snorkel past a sponge, hydroid or clump of seaweed on a pier pylon, take a closer look… a sneaky pair of head tentacles (rhinophores) may just give one away.
The field guide is available from the Melbourne Museum shop and a range of distributors.
About the Author
Geelong building contractor by day, but world nudibranch expert at all times, Bob Burn is an Honorary Associate at Museum Victoria and long-time member of the Marine Research Group of the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria and the Malacological Society of Australasia.
He is the author of over 100 publications on nudibranchs and other molluscs and has described over 90 species of these amazingly diverse marine invertebrates.
About Museum Victoria Field Guides
Nudibranchs is part of the Museum Victoria field guide series. Each guide in the series covers a different group of marine animals, featuring the common species within that group.
Most of the animals described occur in shallow waters, on shores and reefs along the coastline of the southern half of Australia and beyond. The series are supported by the Australian Government through a grant from Natural Heritage Trust, and this particular guide was also supported by a grant from the Norman Wettenhall Foundation.