Of the many things I enjoy about diving, one is certainly the diverse variety of nudibranch found in Southern California. Many underwater photographers, and scuba divers in general, hold nudibranchs in high regard. They are a part of the mollusk family; think of a slug which lives in the oceans of the world. They come in just about any color you can imagine, and their form is alien. They range in size from 4 to 600 mm (0.16 to 23.62 in). They can be found in all of the planet’s oceans, and they live in the shallowest tide pools and at depths of over 2000′. There are more than 3000 known species, and perhaps countless more yet to be discovered.
Most nudibranchs are fairly small, but they are also brightly colored and usually stand out against the reef. The key to finding them is diving slowly and looking in and around the nooks of the rocks, the undersides of kelp fronds, and near their sources of food. They are carnivores, so they can usually be found near sponges, anemones, hydroids and sometimes other nudibranchs. Part of their brilliant color comes as a result of the foods they eat.
Nudibranchs are also hermaphrodites, each one having the reproductive organs of both the male and female. It does still require two to tango, but being solitary creatures, it certainly ups the chances when two happen to cross paths in the wild. These great creatures have relatively short lifespans as well. Many live as long as a year, but some for only as long as a few weeks.