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Going Nudi in California: Part V
By Mike Bartick, May 24, 2009 @ 03:44 PM (EST)
Nudi Flu
May has arrived but spring hasn’t quite sprung. Wind and swell punish the upper Channel Islands and the weather is even more unpredictable then usual. Algae blooms have created green water diving conditions that could best be described as “Thick, Pea Soup thick.”

The visibility has dropped into single digits in some places and the surge has created a washing machine effect. Perfect for hunting Nudi’s and they are everywhere to be found. I love the Northern Channel Islands at this time of the year. The wild flowers that dot the cliffside are accented by the green grass that covers these rugged islands. Below the water line there is another symphony of color and life.

Nudi season is in full swing and everyone is at it. Recently I joined an LAUPS trip to the northern Channel Islands and almost everyone on the boat was shooting Nudi’s. It seems the Nudi obsession is pandemic too. It’s like “The Nudi Flu”. People are calling into work trying to explain to the boss, mustering up they’re sickest voice. In the background. The DM is giving a dive briefing on the site. Normal people just don’t understand.


Part of my attraction to shooting Nudi’s is the vivid colors displayed by our aquatic friends. They are anything but plain, some are ornate and others are brightly colored.
Why is this, are they just showing off or could it be warning a sign, camouflage or perhaps mimicry? Well I have to say, any one of these reasons are intriguing to me.

After watching a colorful Nudibranch strut its stuff across reef or substrate one would have to admit, that’s pretty darn bold. The vivid colored, slow moving slug looks like “easy picking”. How do they get away with it? Are they poisonous?

Fish will do the proverbial fly by. Others will even sample the fare by sucking up the well defended slug and seconds later spit him out. What is going on here, what gives them they’re super Nudi powers?

Rumor has it that Nudibranchs have evolved some pretty hefty defense systems over the years. Giving up they’re shells meant they would have to evolve ways that would ensure safety while seeking food or mating.
Dorids for instance sport a tough skin with sharp spine’s to ward off curious nibblers. They also secrete a nasty acidic potion that could damage the mouths of predatory fish. However this is pretty simple stuff compared to what else these guys are capable of.

As we know Nudibranchs love to eat hydroids. Hydroids contain protein cells capable of delivering an irritating sting, much like jelly fish. The proteins or Nematocysts are consumed by the Nuds while eating, then without triggering the protein to sting, they commute the proteins into they’re own defensive system.


The cerata of the Aeolids are the first line of defense against would be predators.

The tip of each cerata (The club like appendages on the mantle of the aeolid) is spring loaded and ready at all times. Talk about highly evolved. Many critters in the Sea will actually mimic Nudibranchs for protection. Take for instance this Flatworm.

So Nudibranchs are poisonous, well not really, Let’s just say they carry pepper spray.

However there is one evil predator that is always hunting for Nuds that is immune to stings and acidic sludge, its arch enemy and nemesis, the dreaded Navanax.
The Navanax will pick up the scent trail of a Nud and track it down. Making the approach slowly, methodically, then with certainty they inhale the unsuspecting Nud. Now you see it, now you don’t. I watched the Navanax track down several inches across the bryozoan, thinking I had plenty of time. I envisioned an award winning photo of the Nudi getting rag dolled in the mouth of this ominous predator. Boy was I wrong, perching itself above the Flabellina trilineata the strike was motionless and deadly. I was lucky to get the shot I did.

The Cuthonas this season have really availed themselves to me. Not having seen this many in past years. This tiny Cuthona lagunae is miniscule with its elongated orange-red rhinophores and red tipped cerata.

Super Macro has been a technique that I have been trying to perfect, I have had several diopters made for me over the years but none have worked as well as the one I am using now from Blue Abyss. A series of three stacked diopters allow me as much as +16 magnifications with a surprisingly forgiving DOF.

Next week I take my show on the road. Anilao Philippines is riffe with Nudibranchs. On my last trip we shot over 125 different. Nudis and this trip should prove to be even better.

While it is true that I will be Going Nudi in Anilao, my obsession will always be right at home in Going Nudi California.
Special Thanks To:
Specter dive charters Channel Islands
Sundiver Dive Charters
Marissa dive charter’s


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