30 August 2010

LA MER



I remember as a little kid going to beaches like this on the New Jersey shore. Well, maybe not quite like this.

Fabulously honest camera work, sly editing, set to the tune La Mer by the great chanteur Charles Trénet.


 

Here's Charles Trénet singing his song himself later in his career. Apparently he wrote the song in 10 minutes in 1943 on toilet paper aboard a train running along the Mediterranean coast.



Bobby Darin did an English-language cover called Beyond the Sea in 1959. Totally different song.



The evolution continued with this video set to Beyond the Sea, sung by Robbie Williams.
 


Not the same song, except in name. A hypnotic beauty by Nine Inch Nails.



An even more hypnotic stop-motion video of the NIN song.



Before there were talkies, Louis Lumière produced this 1895 silent film called La Mer.

La mer, she inspires us.

(Photo of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, from here.)

29 August 2010

SUNDAY POETRY: "SONG"

(Photo from here.)

 
The bottom of the sea has come   
And builded in my noiseless room   
The fishes’ and the mermaids’ home,

Whose it is most, most hell to be   
Out of the heavy-hanging sea
And in the thin, thin changeable air

Or unroom sleep some other where;   
But play their coral violins   
Where waters most lock music in:

The bottom of my room, the sea.
Full of voiceless curtaindeep
There mermaid somnambules come sleep   
Where fluted half-lights show the way,

And there, there lost orchestras play   
And down the many quarterlights come   
To the dim mirth of my aquadrome:   
The bottom of my sea, the room.

25 August 2010

AUGUST WITH MONK SEALS


This lovely short film is an example of what I like about the new world we're living in. A filmmaker gets to make his or her own film. That's all. There's no one telling him or her what should go into it or be left out of it. 

Consequently, the ecosystem of online videos is slowly evolving to include these uniquely quiet and powerful voices. 

Which turns out to be a perfect compliment for this film's subject: monk seals. In particular, Mediterranean monk seals, Monachus monachus (Greek monachos: solitary; Latin monachus: monk). The Mediterranean monk seals in this film live far from the Mediterranean on the Atlantic coast of Mauritania, in the region around Cap Blanc, known in Arabic as Ras Nouadhibou. They've survived here against all odds thanks to nearly inaccessible cavessome have entrances only underwaterin inaccessible cliffs on unpeopled coastlines.


This range map from Wikimedia Commons shows the surviving colonies of Mediterranean monk seals, including Cap Blanc in the lower left.

This species was well known to the people of the ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean. In his Historia Animālium, Aristotle wrote extensively about wildlife. But he struggled to understand what seals were all about:

The seal is a kind of imperfect or crippled quadruped; for just behind the shoulder-blade its front feet are placed, resembling hands, like the front paws of the bear; for they are furnished with five toes, and each of the toes has three flexions and a nail of inconsiderable size. The hind feet are also furnished with five toes; in their flexions and nails they resemble the front feet, and in shape they resemble a fish's tail.
Aristotle, btw, thought women were deformed men.

The Sierra Club Handbook of Seals and Sirenians says that even in recent times in Athosa self-governed monastic state in Greece accessible only by boatmonks used the skins of monk seals to make belts.

Today the Mediterranean monk seal is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. It's one of the rarest mammals on Earth with less than 500 living individuals. The largest surviving colony had been found, though not easily, in the citadel of the Mauritanian caves. But these holdouts from monks and men were hard hit by a die-off in 1997 that killed 200 of 300 seals. No one's sure why. Maybe a virus. Maybe a toxic algal bloom. They've slowly recovered to about 130 today. Yet the die-off may have reduced their genetic diversity by some 12 percent, to a point where they can't reproduce fast enough to overcome random events that effect survival. The IUCN notes impressive efforts to save the Mediterranean monk seal:

However, all of the actions have been insufficient to change the overall declining trend of this species. Most conservation initiatives occur only on paper and do not translate into real and effective conservation action in the field. As a consequence, most of the small subpopulations that survived three decades ago, when conservation of the species was already identified as being a priority, are now extinct. Today, human encroachment of haul-out habitat, adverse interactions with fisheries and impoverished genetic variability are the main threats affecting the species. Unless there is urgent action, the extinction risk of the species is high.


(Photo from Arkive.)

The soundtrack of the film is fascinating. Surely these seals were the Sirens who tried to lure sailors to wreck and ruin? Jason and the Argonauts would have died if Orpheus had not been along on the voyage. Hearing the Sirens' songs, Orpheus drew his lyre, played his own exquisite music, and prevented the Argonauts from jumping overboard and drowning. Maybe that's where we get the phrase drowned out.
























The Siren, by John William Waterhouse, circa 1900, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

24 August 2010

TYPEWRITER MUSIC MOVIE


If I were to collect anything it would be old typewriters.
That's what it would be.
If I were to collect anything.

23 August 2010

THANK YOU, TINIEST PHOTOSYNTHESIZERS


(Picoplankton, viewed by epifluorescence. Image by Daniel Vaulot, CNRS, Station Biologique de Roscoff, courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Amazingly, scientists only discovered the most abundant photosynthetic organisms on Earththe genus Prochlorococcusin 1986. Before then, we lacked the tools to see them.

These tiniest of plants are members of the picoplankton, the drifting marine life measuring between 0.2 and 2 microns (one micron = 1 millionth of a meter).

Prochlorococcus make up for their indescribably minute size with their abundance. As many as 100 million individual plants can share a single liter of seawater. As far as we currently understand things, these are the most abundant lifeforms on Earth, with many octillions (1027) of individuals inhabiting the deep blue home and producing as much as 20 percent of the oxygen in Earth's atmosphere. Without them, our terrestrial world would be a dead zone.



(Image by Daniel Vaulot, CNRS, Station Biologique de Roscoff, courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Prochlorococcus make a living in temperate waters as well as in the nutrient-poor oceans of the tropics. In the image above you can see the vertical distribution of all picoplankton in the Pacific Ocean at 16° South, with Prochlorococcus reaching far higher densities than their cohorts. 


These invisible photosynthesizers are far too small to be studied in situ with ordinary microscopes. Instead, they're counted and collated with the aid of some interesting technologies designed to view fluorescence and phosphorescence rather than reflection and absorption. They're also parsed with some of the incredible tools of molecular biology.

The images (above), taken by flow cytometry, show an analysis of three kinds of picoplankton as characterized by the pigments of their chlorophyll .




An individual Prochlorococcus marinus, as seen through an electron microsope, published by the Marine Picocyanobacteria Genome Project.


(The Station Biologique de Roscoff. Photo by Daniel Vaulot, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.)

Many of the images and much of the information on Prochlorococcus that's posted online (and almost everything appearing in this post) comes from the Station Biologique de Roscoff in Brittany. What a spectacular-looking place to work. 

The images posted here are authored by biological oceanographer Daniel Vaulotaka Dr. Picocyanobacteria (okay, I made that up)from the Station Biologique de Roscoff.

Other researchers have authored a new study just published in PNAS revealing two new clades of  Prochlorococcus adapted to iron-depleted environments in the tropical Pacific and Indian Oceans. From the abstract:

The two uncharacterized clades ... are genetically distinct from each other and other high-light Prochlorococcus isolates and likely define a previously unrecognized ecotype. Our detailed genomic analysis indicates that these clades comprise organisms that are adapted to iron-depleted environments by reducing their iron quota through the loss of several iron-containing proteins that likely function as electron sinks in the photosynthetic pathway in other Prochlorococcus clades from high-light environments. The presence and inferred physiology of these clades may explain why Prochlorococcus populations from iron-depleted regions do not respond to iron fertilization experiments and further expand our understanding of how phytoplankton adapt to variations in nutrient availability in the ocean. 

In other words, dumping tons of fertilizer into the nutrient-poor parts of the ocean to stimulate plankton growth and thereby offset our carbon emissions doesn't work. The little workhorses living there are already photosynthesizing overtime and thriving in the absence of nutrients we think life needs to survive.

The PNAS paper:
Characterization of Prochlorococcus clades from iron-depleted oceanic regions. Douglas B. Rusch, et al.  PNAS.

16 August 2010

WHY I DON'T EAT SEAFOOD, PART 1



At readings of late people have been asking me whether or not I eat seafood, or what seafood I will eat, and what advice to I have to give in general about consuming food from the sea. I summarize the evolution in my own thinking. (I believe there will be a video of one of those summaries online soon and will post it when it goes up.)

When I watched this extraordinary film by Darek Sepiolo, shot in the Galápagos, I found myself moved by everything it says without words. Everything I don't feel I've been able to say as well as I'd like. I've had encounters with all the animals in this film in the wild, many in the Galápagos. Why would I want to eat them? I would not go on safari in Africa and eat lion or elephant at dinner afterward.


(Photo from here.) 

I'm not completely seafood free. Still fall to the temptations of invertebrates, namely local oysters and mussels, at times.

The video, btw, has an awesome score by Hans Zimmer and deserves to be heard on a sound system or headphones conducive to bass.

Also go to Vimeo and watch it in HD. A treat.

INJECT



*Parental discretion advised.* Beautifully filmed short by artist Herman Kolgen. Interestingly subversive. Might not be suitable viewing for all ages or for the deeply squeamish of any age. From Kolgen's Vimeo description:

A human body is injected in a cistern. Over the course of 45 minutes, the pressure of the liquid exerts upon him multiple neurosensorial transformations. From his epidermal fiber to his nervous system, he reacts to influxes of viscosity in this liquid chamber. His cortex, lacking oxygen, gradually loses all notions of the real. Like a human guinea pig: a matter-body whose psychological states are the object of kinetik tableaux, of singular temporal spaces. The genesis of the principal visual material for this project was a shoot in an immense cistern filled with water, which lasted six consecutive days. Yso had to be immersed for over eight hours a day in the glass tank, oscillating between weightlessness and lack of oxygen. With the aid of various digital video recording and photographic systems Kolgen assembled many series of temporal sequences, images that he then assembled into a flexible and modular body. It’s a matter of a narrative progression, in perpetual circles of influence and movement, where the real is in dislocation.

15 August 2010

SUNDAY POETRY: "NEW RELIGION"



(Photo of flocking starlings, aka the whale god, as manifest through Gail Johnson)

This morning no sound but the loud
breathing of the sea. Suppose that under
all that salt water lived the god
that humans have spent ten thousand years
trawling the heavens for.
We caught the wrong metaphor.
Real space is wet and underneath,
the church of shark and whale and cod.
The noise of those vast lungs
exhaling: the plain chanting of monkfish choirs.
Heaven's not up but down, and hell
is to evaporate in air. Salvation,
to drown and breathe
forever with the sea.

14 August 2010

OH MY BELOVED, MY SEA MONKEY



My plankter mind spent the morning in pursuit of sea monkeys. I can't recall anything else from childhood that made me so insanely excited. Here was the best of everything: Sea! Monkeys! Miniature! Really Truly Alive! I remember nights waiting for the mail to arrive filled with a deliciously itchily expectant sea-monkey insomnia.

The problem was I couldn't ever get mine to hatch. Ever. Maybe it was our chlorinated, fluoridated, and who-knows-what-elseated water. At any rate, sea monkeys provided a series of bitter early lessons:

  • Advertising deceives.
  • Sea monkeys don't live in the sea. 
  • Sea monkeys aren't monkeys. 
  • Money buys disappointment.
  • Expectations hurt.
  • What you love dies. 

Sea monkeys were only one link in a long chain of small, captured, and soon-to-be deceased animals littering my childhood, including toads, snakes, fireflies, guppies, gerbils, and baby birds. 


Today's wanderings led me to a memorable craigslist listing:

Sea Monkeys


Date: 2010-02-16, 7:16PM MST

Please rescue my son's Sea Monkeys.

The Sea Monkeys were a well-intentioned gift from a relative, but my son has poor vision and can't see them at all, so they've become Mommy's problem. We are moving and I have no idea how to transport them across the stateplus, I don't care. So, they would love a new owner. They come with their tank, food and food scooping spoon, and a little syringe and keychain thing in case someone wanted to suck Sea Monkeys out of the tank and carry them around for some reason. As shown except that our tank is red, not blue, and that the eggs have already been hatched.

They would be a great dorm pet as they don't take up any space and are quiet. Really, they would be a good pet for anyone. I'm not picky, I don't think they are either.

I realize that people feed Sea Monkeys to fish and such, and I have no problem with that, but I'm not interested in giving these creatures away for that purpose simply because it seems like a waste of all the plastic crap that comes with them. So please only take them if you actually want to keep them.

Thank you!

**Please do no flag and tell me this belongs in pets. Seriouslythey're Sea Monkeys. Come on.

Sea monkeys have come a long way since my day when we dropped them in a drinking glass full of water. Now there are all kinds of plastic habitats available for purchase, the production of which doubtless kills Really Truly Alive brine shrimp in the wild.

  
According to the official Sea-Monkeys® website, the modern monkeys are a product of high-tech aquaculture. Here's what they say, with characteristically jumpy grammer:

Sea-Monkeys® are a unique species of brine shrimp, known by the scientific name of Artemia salina x nyos. We not only unlocked the most elusive secrets of their life cycle, we created new formulas to keep them alive under conditions found in the average home—an accomplishment never before achieved! Resulting from the most exquisitely sophisticated “aquaculture technology”, by true pioneers in this science, only the utmost resources of a leading marine biological research center working for a span of many years has made this project a complete success. 
Thanks to new computer-driven processing technologies and ultra-pure, non-toxic chemicals, twice as many Sea-Monkeys instantly hatch, grow larger and live longer than ever before. You can expect your Sea-Monkey® tank to last about 2 years. An exact, pre-blended formula of "magic crystals" and live Sea-Monkey® eggs are inside the envelopes supplied in every Sea-Monkey kit. When added to water, live Sea-Monkeys® will hatch. That’s why anyone can get perfect results without any knowledge of chemistry or biology. Just by following the easy instructions you create Instant Life®. The only "extra" is the water.

The blog SeaMonkeyGeek—"the most complete sea monkey site ever assembled"—offers a treasure trove of sea monkey catches, including this audacious poem:

OH MY BELOVED, MY SEA MONKEY 
by Anon
Suspended and freeze-dried in a cozy foil shell,
What dreams do you dream (if you dream),
Pray do tell.

The moment of creation, you awake from the evil spell—
I'd like to be excited, but frankly I can't tell
if you're happy in you're new home or DOA in hell.

Purified and tranquil in the water that you dwell;

How many of your powdered brothers
did I spill outside your plastic vessel?

Low these many days I wait like a sentinel
For you to wear the crown in your little citadel.
My tiny, mucuslike backwash friend,
A brine shrimp without a cocktail.

I have a secret suspicion this poem may be the work of Richard Grossman, though I can't verify that.

The secret to brine shrimps' survival (or not) lies in an interesting life-history stage known as cryptobiosos, during which the eggs of the genus Artemia can survive in stasis (metabolically inactive) for up to two years. Kept in dry oxygen-free conditions, the eggs can withstand even the extreme temperatures of liquid air (−190 °C/−310.0 °F) and boiling water (105 °C/221 °F).

SeaMonkeyGeek (currently, seemingly, in cryptobiosis) also posts the lyrics to a piece of melodic existentialia by an Italian punk rock band The Bumpkins.

SEA MONKEYS (lyrics)

I'm a Sea Monkey
I jump into the water
and I grow up quickly for you

I'm a Sea Monkey
I just need something to eat
the chaos can't kill me

I don't know why children play with me
I don't know why children love me

I'm a Sea Monkey
Children will forget me
and my life will change

If I'm a toy
I don't need to eat
even if I'm hungry and tired

I don't know why children play with me
I don't know why children love me
I don't know why children forget me
I don't know why I was born here


13 August 2010

HOW TO CATCH A MULLET



This short video is an excerpt from the BBC Life series showing the amazing cooperative hunting technique of bottlenose dolphins working Florida Bay in pursuit of mullet. This video was published on their new website, Life Is, which will release monthly embeddable videos from the entire BBC catalogue of nature programming. I'm glad to hear it.

The research behind this film was published in a 2005 paper: A division of labour with role specialization in group–hunting bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) off Cedar Key, Florida. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2004.2937 Proc. R. Soc. B 22 January 2005 vol. 272 no. 1559 135-140

From the abstract:
Individual role specialization during group hunting is extremely rare in mammals. Observations on two groups of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in Cedar Key, Florida revealed distinctive behavioural roles during group feeding. In each group, one individual was consistently the ‘driver’, herding the fishes in a circle toward the remaining ‘barrier’ dolphins. Aerial fish–capture rates differed between groups, as well as between the driver and barrier dolphins, in one group but not in the other. These differences between the two groups may reflect differences in group stability or in prey school size.


(Mullet from here.)

I wrote about mullet living in the waters around the atoll of Rangiroa—and a different way of catching themin my book The Fragile Edge. Here's an excerpt:
The littlest fish are less than six inches long, and their schools are sleek and whippy as cat-o’-nine-tails. They are behaviorally circumspect, skittering only through the protected water around the dock’s pilings. In contrast, the schools of the larger mullets, with individuals reaching more than a foot in length, parade aggressively under the dock, around the pilings, and out into the open water, their pectoral fins flipping open and closed like golden fans
as they root out the diatomaceous and detrital scum of the sandy bottom. As one of the few species of fish that feed almost exclusively on single-celled plants—diatoms, dinoflagellates, and phytoplankton—vegetarian mullet have a taste unlike any other fish, or so I’m told. 


Sucré et huileux (sweet and oily), says the Tahitian woman who has joined me on the dock with her hand-fishing line. She has settled onto the pier not far from me, her bare legs and feet dangling over the edge, the sunset square in front of her, where all sunsets always seem to be in Rangiroa. Like many Tahitian women, her hair reaches past her waist, blue-black and shiny as the inside of a mussel shell, the long plait unfastened at the bottom, the hair holding the shape from habit alone. 


She cooks the mullet whole in a pan with just salt, no oil, she says, since the fish are oily enough. Sometimes she adds milk. I recognize her from the hotel, where she works as a maid, and this dock is apparently one of the perks of her job because I’ve seen her fishing here most evenings. She seems relaxed and happy at the end of her workday, carrying nothing of the emotional and psychic exhaustion of a Western worker at shift’s end—and this is one of the many miracles not only of Polynesia but of French Polynesia, where the Gallic embrace of the sensual allows time for the enjoyment of life as it comes.
It's possible this video (the Oprah-Winfrey-narrated version) will stream only on computers based in the US. Sorry if that's true. Copyright Is, too.

(Photo by Endless Vacation on Flickr)  

12 August 2010

THE NORTH WIND BLEW SOUTH



One of a series of amazing films by Sydney artist Keith Loutit with his pioneering tilt-shift/timelapse techniques that skew perspectives of time and space. The song is by Headless Heroes, sung by Alela Diane, off the album of forgotten covers called The Silence of Love. On top of all that, there's even a cameo of a sea pool, none other than the Bondi Icebergs, I believe.


09 August 2010

TINY OCEAN POWERHOUSES KEEP EARTH COOL


(A colony of salps with diver. Photo by Lars Plougmann, courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Meet the salp, a small barrel-shaped organism that also happens to be an energy-efficient self-propelling wonder, whose waste material helps remove carbon dioxide from the upper ocean and the atmosphere. 

Technically salps are tunicates, interesting animals that straddle the vertberate-invertebrate divide. They possess primitive notochords (embryolike backbones) in their larval stages, which they lose in their adult forms. Hence salps and tunicates offer a notable example of the old biological adage: ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. (Trans: the the embryonal development of an individual organism [ontogeny] follows the same path as its evolutionary history [phylogeny].) Though they look like jellyfish, salps are more closely related to you and me than to jellyfish.

In this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), researchers at WHOI and MIT report that mid-ocean-dwelling salps are capable of capturing and eating organisms of many different sizes. From the National Science Foundation:
"We had long thought that salps were about the most efficient filter-feeders in the ocean," said Larry Madin, WHOI Director of Research and one of the paper's authors. "But these results extend their impact down to the smallest available size fraction, showing they consume particles spanning four orders of magnitude in size. This is like eating everything from a mouse to a horse."


(A colony of connected salps. Photo: Kelly Sutherland and Larry Madin, WHOI)

Salps capture food particles, mostly phytoplankton, with an internal mucus filter net. Until now it was thought that included only particles larger than the 1.5-micron-wide holes in the mesh. But a mathematical model suggested salps could capture food particles smaller than that. When offered food particles of three sizes in the laboratory, salps ate prey both smaller and larger than the mesh openings—implying they eat the most numerous and widely distributed organisms in the ocean, including bacteria and the smallest phytoplankton.
"We found that more small particles were captured than expected," said lead author Kelly Sutherland. "When exposed to ocean-like particle concentrations, 80 percent of the particles that were captured were the smallest particles offered in the experiment."
The finding explains how salps, which exist either alone or in chains containing a hundred or more animals linked together, are able to survive in the open ocean where the supply of larger food particles is low. By filtering the smallest particles, they can survive where other grazers can't. The new findings also recognize the salps' enhanced role in the carbon cycle, since they consume the entire 'microbial loop' from small to large. 

(A colony of salps with divers. Photo from here.)

Salps excrete large, dense, carbon-containing fecal pellets. The larger and denser the pellets the faster they sink to the ocean bottom where they remain sequestered for decades or even centuries. Sequestering carbon on the seafloor frees the upper ocean to accumulate more carbon from the atmosphere.  

Useful poop.

In the video you can watch salps swimming and eating in rhythmic pulsesthe tireless mobile heartbeats of the deep blue homedrawing seawater in through an opening at the front end, capturing food particles, rolling them into strands for passage through the gut for digestion. The amazing performance relies on a feat of bioengineeringthe production of a nanometer-scale mucus netthe biomechanics of which we don't understand and can't recreate. 



(Video credit: Kelly Sutherland; Larry Madin; Roman Stocker, WHOI/MIT)

Kelly R. Sutherland, L.P. Madin, and R. Stocker. Filtration of submicrometer particles by pelagic tunicates. PNAS. DOI:

08 August 2010

SUNDAY POETRY: "OUR VALLEY"




(Peruvian fog catchers, designed to harvest airborne moisture in dry places. From here)

OUR VALLEY
We don't see the ocean, not ever, but in July and August
when the worst heat seems to rise from the hard clay   
of this valley, you could be walking through a fig orchard
when suddenly the wind cools and for a moment   
you get a whiff of salt, and in that moment you can almost
believe something is waiting beyond the Pacheco Pass,
something massive, irrational, and so powerful even
the mountains that rise east of here have no word for it.

You probably think I'm nuts saying the mountains   
have no word for ocean, but if you live here   
you begin to believe they know everything.   
They maintain that huge silence we think of as divine,
a silence that grows in autumn when snow falls
slowly between the pines and the wind dies
to less than a whisper and you can barely catch
your breath because you're thrilled and terrified.

You have to remember this isn't your land.   
It belongs to no one, like the sea you once lived beside
and thought was yours. Remember the small boats   
that bobbed out as the waves rode in, and the men   
who carved a living from it only to find themselves   
carved down to nothing. Now you say this is home,   
so go ahead, worship the mountains as they dissolve in dust,   
wait on the wind, catch a scent of salt, call it our life.

07 August 2010

LIFE ON THE BACK OF AN OYSTER


This incredibly intimate video offers an extreme close-up of the life atop a thorny oyster (Spondylus americanus)an ecosystem within the ecosystem of a coral reef. The rim of the thorny oyster (partially visible at the bottom right of the video frame) is lined with dozens of eyes that detect changes in light indicating the approach of a potential predator. When movement is detected, the oyster snaps its shells together, sealing the animal inside with powerful adductor muscles

Amazingly, you can watch x-raylike through the nudibranch's translucent tissues as it swallows its prey, a hydroid. Read on to learn how the nudibranch does so much more with its meal than simply digest it.

From the Morphologic Blog of the Morphologic Studio, describing the diverse community of animals and plants colonizing the upper shell of the oyster, as seen in the video:
Towards the left of the frame is a small colony of flower-like animals known as hydroids. Hydroids are most closely related to jellyfish, but instead remain attached to the reef their whole lives (unlike a jellyfish). But, like the jellyfish, hydroids can pack a powerful stinging punch. The brown, daisy-like creatures seen growing here on the oysters’s back are one such type of hydroid, Myrionema amboinense. This hydroid species derives its brown coloration from the symbiotic zooxanthellae (dinoflagellate ‘algae’) stored in its tissues. The ability to gain nutrition from both prey capture and photosynthesis, allows these hydroids to grow and colonize quickly. The sting from these hydroids is considerably more powerful than that of most corals. The gray, lumpy knobs on the back of the oyster shell are zoanthid polyps, close cousins of the sea anemones. However, these zoanthids are no match against the powerful sting of the hydroids. The zoanthids have all but acknowledged defeat by the encroaching stingers by simply closing up; effectively handing over control of the oyster shell to the hydroids. 
The tiny, but powerful hydroids have one mortal enemy… the lynx nudibranch Phidiana lynceus. The lynx nudibranch only dines upon hydroids, and is especially fond of Myrionema amboinense. In the video we observe the lynx nudibranch on the hunt. With sight limited to only the detection of light and dark, the nudibranch relies on touch and ’smell’ to detect its surroundings. By sweeping its two oral tentacles open wide as it moves, it maximizes its likelihood of coming into contact with a hydroid. When they touch, the nudibranch reacts abruptly from the hydroid’s sting. Once the hydroid has been detected, the nudibranch is challenged with the task of eating it. The video shows how carefully the nudibranch goes about positioning itself in order minimize the sting of the hydroid’s defensive nematocysts. Once the hydroid polyp is successfully engulfed, the nudibranch tears off the soft tentacles in a few swift movements and swallows them. If you look carefully, you can see through the nudibranch’s translucent tissue and see the swallowed mass pass through the nudibranch’s esophagus. The nudibranch’s patient and careful consumption of the stinging hydroid suggests that even it is not immune from the spicy burn of the ingested nematocysts. Amazingly, the lynx nudibranch separates both the photosynthetic zooxanthellae and stinging nematocysts from the hydroid before digesting the rest. The zooxanthellae and nematocysts are then transferred into the flap-like tassles, known as cerata, that adorn the creature’s back. Consequently, the nudibranch reaps the sweet, photosynthetic rewards of symbiotic zooxanthellae (i.e. solar power) in the same way that the hydroid does. Furthermore, the incorporated nematocysts act as a powerful defense mechanism against potential predators.
Nudibranchs are named for their exterenal flowery gills (Latin nudus: naked; Greek brankhia: gills). Here's a gallery of nudibranch beauties with a variety of colorful gills.
















(Photo from here)
























(Photo from here)
























(Photo from here)














(Photo from here)


















(Photo from here)