I used to work in the Marine Invertebrate section of the South Australian Museum, and the curator and his assistants (including me) would go on field trips to get specimens, especially for our marine tank. This was not on display to the public, but I quickly learnt that marine tanks are fussy to look after and can turn into a stinky mess overnight.
We’d get rocks with lots of weeds and put them in the tank. It was always exciting to come in the next morning and see what had crawled out – especially nudibranchs.
We’d bottle them up in formaldehyde and send them off to the expert at Museum Victoria in Melbourne, Bob Burn, who often discovered that many of these were new to science. He had the fun and privilege of describing and naming them. There’s no windowii, though.
It’s still exciting for me to see a nudibranch, and these days there are many websites, books and CD-ROMS available to help with ID.
Here are two new – for me – nudibranchs from Flat Rock last weekend. They were both about 2 cm long.
You’ll notice the pink protuberances, called papillae, on Plocampherus. Apparently in another species in this group, when the animal is disturbed, some of these produce flashes of light – bioluminescence. Must go down to the reef one night and poke one to see if it happens in this species!
No wonder they are called “the jewels of the sea”!