NOTE:  The Great Sea Slug Beauty Contest of 2012 is now over.  Scroll down to see all the contestants, then find out who won at the bottom of the page.

When many people hear the word “slug,” they automatically say “EWWWW!”  But sea slugs (also known as nudibranches) are some of the most diverse, fascinating, and BEAUTIFUL animals in the oceans.  We love sea slugs–and once you get to know them, we bet you will, too. (For more information, see Why You Should Care About Sea Slugs.)

To showcase some of these incredible creatures, we are holding The Great Sea Slug Beauty Contest.  Just visit the photos and descriptions of all the unique species below, then choose your favorite in our poll.

Chromodoris kuniei

Photography by Steve Childs used under Creative Commons license

The Chromodoris kuniei (no common name) is, as pictured, a very colored and timed sea slug. It is often found off warmer tropical costs in the western hemisphere, mostly off New Caladoia, and found somewhere between 5 and 38 meters deep. Thatʼs all thatʼs known about it. Mysterious! Unknown! Intriguing! Vibrant! Australian!

Elysia Chlorotica

Photography by Patrick Krug used under Creative Commons license

Elysia Chlorotica, more commonly known as the Eastern Emerald Elysia, may not be as flashy as some of its more colorful cousins, but it’s inner beauty that counts, right?  And no sea slug has a more lovely and interesting interior life than this amazing creature.

Elysia Chlorotica sucks the chloroplast cells–the cells that conduct photosynthesis, or that turn light into usable energy–out of the algae on which it feeds, and keeps it alive in its large, leafy digestive system.  That allows our beautiful and brilliant Elysia Chlorotica to get its food from sunlight!  No wonder it has earned the nickname of the “Solar Powered Sea Slug.”

Emerald Elysia can be found in brackish or saltwater marshes up and down the Eastern coast of the US from Nova Scotia to Florida, and is a confirmed resident of the North Carolina shores.  Need another reason to vote for this unconventional beauty?  The name “Elysia” means “sweetly blissful,” and is derived from the Elysian fields, the afterlife Paradise reserved for ancient Greek heroes and scholars.

Glaucus atlanticus

Glaucus atlanticus © Taro Taylor, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

If you like your beauties cunning and deadly, then this is the sea slug for you!  Glaucus atlanticus, also called a “Sea Swallow” or “Blue Dragon Sea Slug,” is one of the most fascinating sea slugs around.

Glaucus atlanticus has a big air sac in its stomach, which allows it to float, belly side up, along the surface of the water, being moved across the open ocean by the waves and the wind.  This allows Glaucus atlanticus to follow its favorite food, especially the venomous Portuguese man-o-war (scientific name:  Physalia), which is also a pelagic, or open ocean surface dwelling creature.  Humans try to stay clear of the Portuguese man-o-war (also known as Bluebottles) because of their painful stings, but lucky Glaucus is immune to their venom.  In fact, Glaucus eats the Bluebottles stinging cells and stores up the venom in its finger-like appendages (which are actually called ceratas), so that its sting is even deadlier and/or more painful than the orginal Physalia.

Glaucus is also cleverly constructed.  The beautiful metallic silver stripes look like beautiful ornamentation, but it is actually camouflage!  Because the silver side hangs down, it merely looks like light entering the ocean blue to predators swimming underneath.  Meanwhile, the underside, which floats along the top of the water, is either blue or white, matching the color of the surf in the eyes of birds flying above.

Phyllodesmium poindimiei

Photo by Doug Anderson used under Creative Commons license.

This sea slug is pretty and pink.  You can find it grazing on octocoral near Australia and Hawaii.  Its tentacles, called cerata, are a glorious shade of pink.  Its body appears to glow as it gracefully swims on the ocean floor.   A vote for the Phyllodesmium poindimiei is a vote for the sea slug future!

Berghia Sea Slug

Photo by Parent Gery used under Creative Commons License

Our next contestant is the Berghia Sea Slug. She comes from the warm waters in North Carolina but her family can be found in the Northern Atlantic and places such as Jamaica. Her little tentacles (or Appendages) are poisonous, and release toxic chemicals that can be harmful to other fish.  She can grow to a maximum of 18 mm, but don’t let her small size fool you, she is still the most beautiful sea slug in the ocean.

Ocellated Wart Slug

Photo by Steve Childs used under the Creative Commons Attribution License

This gorgeous contestant has traveled all the way from Thailand to be here tonight!  Let’s give it up for the Ocellated Wart Slug!  *crowd cheers*

Don’t let her stiff and rubbery texture fool you – this little beauty is full of warm, gushy love.  She’s also full of warm, gushy, partially-digested sea sponges, which she loves to eat on a constant basis.  This stunning lump of mucousal tissue loves to show off her longitudinal tuberculate notal ridges, or warts, all over the west and central Pacific Ocean.  She can reach length of up to six sensuous centimeters and can be commonly found in shallow waters and even out on the open shore.  She is certainly not shy!

Opalescent Sea Slug

Photo by: John Albers-Mead by Creative Commons license

Opalescent Sea Slug

The opalescent sea slug is a beautiful creature which lives in the surrounding water of Alaska, Mexico, Japan, and the Kodiak Islands. The orange tips of cerata warn predators of its venomous sting and make it more exquisite as it gracefully dances through the water.

Original, Pretty, Adorable, Lovable, Exquisite, Slow, Cute, Elaborate, Neat, Transparent, Salt water loving

Amazing, Radiant, Enjoyable

Terrific, Honorable, Elegant

Bold, Enchanting, Surprisingly cool, Typically awesome


Cyerce Nigricans

Photography by Dino Sassi-Marcel Fayton, Photo Eden LTD–Public Domain, according to the law of the Seychelles

The Cyerce Nigricans is a stunning specimen that can be found all over the pacific, most notably in the great barrier reef, the largest coral reef in the world and one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Its brightly colored “petals,” or cerata, give it the nickname “the many petaled slug.” Not only do they look fabulous, but they are functional; if potential predators don’t back off when the cyerce nigricans flares its cerata in warning, the cerata can be cast off and secrete an unsavory substance that puts the predator off its lunch! The Cyerce Nigricans is also a member of the exclusive clave Sacoglossa, a family of solar powered sea slugs that gain the photosynthesizing powers of algae by consuming it. Exquisite and energy efficient, this sea slug has spunk.

And Which Sea Slug Won the Great Sea Slug Beauty Contest of 2012?

Chromodoris Kuniei

This exotic beauty, found in the tropical waters of the South Pacific and the islands in Oceania, was the choice of about 25% of all votes.  For more information about the contest results, please see Who Won the Great Sea Slug Beauty Contest of 2012?.


4 responses »

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  4. Hmm is anyone else encountering problems with the pictures on this blog loading?
    I’m trying to figure out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog.
    Any feed-back would be greatly appreciated.

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