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Going Nudi in California: Part VII
By Mike Bartick, September 2, 2009 @ 03:46 PM (EST)


Well I must say jumping into 50 degree water after diving in the Philippines is rather bracing. Even with a drysuit, the chill sets in. But as incredible as it is in the PI’s, its great to be back in California’s waters. Gliding through the lush kelp, greeted by the local penipeds, there is nothing like coming home.

After a two week trip of discovery I am lucky enough to discover a new Nudi in my own backyard. Not having the heart or the permits to collect it, I was sure to photograph it thoroughly.

Found in the shallows at Catalina Island I give to you Tritonia myrakeenae.

At least that’s the closest described relative. It’s funny how the last few minutes of a dive can sometimes be the most productive.

I return to where I’ve been observing the mating and breeding of the Acanthadoris. Surprisingly they have all vanished, leaving the area stripped of the bryozoan they fed on. No more egg masses, no little stragglers, nothing. This must be the aftermath of the critical mass the experts talk about. Having depleted the food supply until it can no longer support life, these Acanthadoris have died off or just moved on.

The next day I received a phone call from my dive buddy Kimmy (nudi spotter extraordinaire). A rare Nudi has been spotted down south at La Jolla Shores. So I packed my gear and away I went.

La Jolla Shores is another one of the Southlands Muck Dives. A super long back swim out to an underwater canyon wall yields a bounty of critters. Tonight we are seeking the large pink mouthed hydroid, a favorite snack for the rare Cumanotus sp.1.

After an hour of cruising around the canyon wall, finding all different types of great subjects, the object of our desire seems too elusive. That is, until the last few minutes. As I come up over the canyon rim I see a large pink mouthed hydroid. Now we are on to something. Soon Kimmy is waving her flashlight at me. Bingo!, I swim over to see her pointing at another large hydroid as if to say, “Look, it’s right there”. Well I'm looking, but I don’t see a thing...finally the species comes into focus. Wow, there it is indeed, a miniscule Cumanotus sp.1.

I have been shooting with an old school Sigma 28-80 macro lens for the last week. Tonight I decided to use it with my 1.4 teleconverter to see what we come up with.

This is an interesting little bugger with long, smooth rhinophores joined at the base. Slightly transparent-pink in color, due to it’s specialized diet of pink hydroids. You can see the digestive glands in the dense cerata along its back or its dorsum. Part of the Flabellina family, this little guy is a jewel for this Nudi enthusiast.

Diet often has much to do with the coloration or color variance of several species, as observed with these Hermissenda crassicornis , part of the Aeolid family.



These guys are not only tough, but cannibalistic and often feed on eggs of its nemeses the Navanax.



A few days later I'm back to Catalina, but this time I go deep. The conditions have really turned sour on us. A late season plankton bloom has played havoc with the visibility. From the surface the water appears a dark reddish brown and every dive is a near night dive. Clean water isn’t always needed for macro photography, but it is still superior. Using negative space in chunky conditions is always a challenge. The use of negative space is a great way to enhance your subject and bring it out to the viewer.

The subject featured below, Tylodina fungina, is rather common but unique none the less becuasie it is a side gill. It is an Opisthobranch that has not internalized its shell. Usually found on its food source the sulpher sponge, just out of the frame. Using the 80mm lens again enables me to get in tight on the face to highlight the eyespots. As I moved around I noticed he had a little friend with him too. How cool is that, I have never seen one this small before.






The two of them make for a great composition. The yellow color will really POP if I can shoot against a black background. The trick here is not to blow out the colors. With a slight adjustment of my strobe beam and an increase in my shutter speed, I can control the light just a little more. Controlling the light in these conditions is vital. I don’t want any backscatter so getting the lighting just right is important.

On another muck dive we headed out to Vets Park, this time in search of the only Melibe species found in local waters -- Melibe leonina, commonly named the lions head Melibe. It's a very interesting Nudibranch that’s almost transparent in color and found on kelp stalks and kelp fronds for a short period of time every year. Melibes feeds on crustaceans like krill and tiny isopods. They feel along the kelp stalks with little oral tentacle’s looking for their next meal. Once detected they quickly enlarge their head creating a suction of water pulling in any tiny crustaceans within its range. Watching them work in tandem is a sight to behold.




Despite the local conditions the Nudibranchs have been plentiful. From the upper Channel Island all the way to La Jolla shores. This video has some of the other Nudi’s I have been finding this last month as well.


Im looking forward to some more cold water diving in the near future as I will be taking the show on the road again. This time Scotland, you read it right. The similarities of the Eastern Atlantic and the Eastern Pacific are amazing. Ill be diving in the Loch Fyne area which is rich in marine life, wrecks and invertebrates.


As I have found out, my obsession for Nudis is shared worldwide. I will be joining some Nudibranch enthusiasts across the pond for a few days of Nudi hunting. I never dreamed that the little purple thing on the reef could take me all over the world, but here I am.
Going nudi in Scotland….
Special Thanks to :
Anita and Carl at Marissa Dive Charters-San Diego

Kyaa and Ray at Sundiver Charters-Seal Beach

Ted and Shannon Spectre dive boat




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