Spanish Shawl

Flabellina iodinea

Order: 

Nudibranchia

Family: 

Flabellinoidea

The Flabellina iodinea has a vibrantly colored body with bright orange cerata and a purple body that can measure up to approximately 5 cm in length (1).  From the orange cerata outgrowths on the purple body of this sea slug that lives off the West coast, this species is typically referred to as the Spanish shawl (1).  This common species has a very unique characteristic which is utilized as a defense mechanism against predators (1).  More specifically, the Flabellina iodinea has the ability to sequester the stinging nematocysts of the prey and store it within the tips of the cerata (1).  The bright color of this particular species is hypothesized to be an adaptation of the nudibranch that serves to warn off predators (1).  In addition, the vibrant cerata is predicted to lead predators to the stinging nematocysts and away from the visceral organs (1).

 

(1) Dearden, S.J., Ghoshal, A., Demartini, D.G., Morse, D.E. (2018).  Sparkling Reflective Stacks of Purine Crystals in the Nudibanch Flabelllina iodinea.  The Biological Bulletin, 234(2), 116-129.  https://doi.org/10.1086/698012

(Photograph) Peter J. Bryant, University of California, Irvine

Habitat:

  • Intertidal Zone