What is a sea slug and how will you know if you’ve found one?
Sea slugs are actually snails i.e. they are sea snails (marine gastropod molluscs) that have seemingly lost their shells. Also known as nudibranch, they are found in most marine habitats, occurring in shallow rock pools and in the deep sea. Knowing when you find one can be easy when they are the size of a football, or extremely difficult when they are smaller than the nail on your pinkie finger. Generally, if it is in saltwater and it moves like a slug it is most likely a ‘sea slug’. If you are unsure, take a photo and we will let you know.
Sea Slugs are one of the most popular and most photographed groups of marine invertebrates, with ~400 species known in Victoria. They are excellent indicators of environmental change because they have rapid life-cycles (less than 12 months), very specific food requirements, and respond to changing oceanographic conditions.
Yet there is very little basic knowledge on their diversity, distribution and ecology. To learn more about them we teamed up with Southern Cross University to have Victoriaís first Sea Slug Census in Port Phillip Bay, Westernport Bay and surrounds. The information gathered will help marine scientists to update knowledge about the diversity and distribution of this spectacular group of molluscs.
To learn more about sea slugs in Victoria, check out these links:
A Museum Victoria field guide – Nudibranchs and related molluscs
Port Phillip Bay Taxonomic Toolkit
Australian Geographic – Nudibranchs: indicators of climate change
Facebook group for nudi-nerds!