Dress like a Nudibranch

Are you struggling with interior redecorating? Perhaps you want to restyle your wardrobe but you are lacking fashion inspiration? I may be able to provide you with just the motivation you need.

Let me introduce you to the boldest, brightest mollusks in the the Peabody Collection, the Nudibranchs. As illustrated by their colors, patterns and form, these bizarre sea slugs are deaf to the concept of “toning it down” and I don’t blame them, they are fabulous just as they are.

More than 2000 species of these wacky animals can be found around the world in shallow tropical waters. However, as fun as they look, they are carnivores without specialization, sponges, corals, anemones, barnacles, and even other nudibranchs, everything is on the menu. Luckily for those of us who can move faster than a barnacle, nudibranchs are grazers, and slowly moving across the substrate as they eat. This less active form of predation makes them a strong contender for the title of “Carnivorous Sloths of the Ocean”, well… at least in my eyes it does.

Feeding behavior aside, do you think you have what it takes to dress like a Nudibranch? If so, I would suggest starting with a jelly-like body (no biomineralized skeleton here) and then layering over a pink shaggy coat to mimic Coryphella verrucosa, or perhaps something in black and white leopard print to match a Chromodoris… it really depends on what look you prefer. For the nudibranchs on the other hand, it is no matter of preference, their colors and form are related to the food that they eat and the environment they live in.

Defense is the major influence to the nudibranch wardrobe. Throughout the animal kingdom bright colors act as a warning sign for other animals to BACK OFF, they say I have chemical defenses, don’t mess with me. In the case of the nudibranch though, these chemical defenses are not self-produced, but rather obtained from the food they eat. After snacking on a particularly tasty morsel of sponge, nudibranchs can recycle poisonous sponge chemicals within their own bodies and reuse them to decrease their own palatability and deter predators. Some species take this a step further by incorporating stinging cells into their decoration. After feeding on cnidarians (stinging animals like coral and anemones), some species of nudibranch are able to incorporate the nematocysts (stinging cells) into the tips of outgrowths from the body. This armor of stinging cells is able to protect the nudibranch from whatever unsuspecting predator next tries to eat it for lunch.

Their colors and patterns may be spectacular but upon reflection, nudibranchs might not be the best animal to take fashion advice from. If sharing the nudibranch’s style also means sharing its diet of distasteful sponges and stinging cnidarians, then I think you will find that I am quite happy sticking with my jeans and hoodies.

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