One of my favorite things about the ocean is that literally every single time you go out you’ll see something you’ve never seen before, whether a species or a new interaction it’s always different. Throw in a camera it’s even more fun.
A couple of nights ago after work I decided to go on a fun snorkel on our local staff beach. The visibility was beautiful and it was right at sunset which made the water the softest pastel blue at the surface, with a rich royal underneath. I was lucky enough to see an eagle ray, a juvenile hawksbill turtle as well as a massive school of red toothed trigger fish. The real fun didn’t happen however, until I was rushing back, before the sky turned black and the swimming flag was changed from green to red.
Our staff beach has a gorgeous wall and a nice reef maybe 100 feet off shore. Between that wall and the beach however is what I think of as a coral graveyard. Only about 6 feet deep, the bottom is all sand and dead Acropora fragments (a species of coral) twisting in the soft current. As I swam through this evening however, something fluffy and orange floating through the water caught my eye, it was a Nudibranch!
As I watched the little nudibranch I realized the ocean floor was littered with them and their orange egg ribbons. As I swam around I counted a couple dozen. I tried to snap a few pictures in the fading light but realized I would just have to return.
The next morning we came back armed with a small crew and better cameras. The were some skeptical people, unsure that the nudis would have stuck around. We got excited as we spotted one or two in the water. About five minutes in someone called, it seemed all the nudibranch were making their way to one large sandy patch to mate, there was even a pile of nearly thirty!
Gymnodoris celonica is known for their mass mating events. The species is hermaphroditic (both male and female). They reproduce using genital papilla, sexual organs on the side of their body so that both individuals can be fertilized at the same time. They then lay the orange spiral egg ribbons.
There must have been hundreds of Gymnodoris celonica laying eggs and mating.
Gymnodoris celonica are quite cute, with their little orange rhinophores like bunny ears on their head. The orange polkadots create patterns as well, most common of course a smiley face. The frilly bit on their back lower half are actually their gills, orange-lines and white. The coolest factor about this nudibranch however is that through their translucent skin you could see the additional eggs they were carrying.
Perhaps I’m just an uber-nerd, but it’s days like this that make me know I’m 100% pursuing the right field and career. Stoked to see what other discoveries are waiting for me here in the Maldives!