Thursday, July 25, 2013


 "The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever."
                                                                                               - Jacques-Yves Cousteau

Haystack Rock on the Pacific Ocean in Oregon

A few years ago we spent a week on the northern Oregon Coast with dear friends of ours. It was their first trip to Oregon and we had so much fun exploring with them. We had to head home a few days before they left, so they went to Cannon Beach and the tidepools around Haystack Rock (which I've posted about many times.) on their own. We got a very enthusiastic email from them that evening - they had seen nudibranch in the tidepools! After that, Paul and I made a point of scouring the tidepools for nudibranch every time we went back to Haystack Rock. It's been 4 years since then and we had yet to see any - until this year! As with many things, once you see one, suddenly you see lots of them.

Three opalescent nudibranch in a tidepool. 
I would guess that these particular nudibranch were an inch, maybe an inch and a half long.

Why am I so enthusiastic about nudibranch (pronounced "new-deh-brangk")? I think a lifetime of nature shows imprinted their beauty and mystique on me. So much of the ocean is hidden from us, which makes the opportunity to see one of these creatures in a tidepool incredibly exciting to me. (For the record, I also desperately want to see a whale shark because of those nature shows. That's going to take a little more effort.)

According to National Geographic, more than 3,000 species of nudibranch are known to science. You can see a photo gallery of some of them on their website. Nudibranch are basically shell-less snails and come in a variety of beautiful colors and shapes. They are carnivorous, hermaphrodite (having both male and female sex organs) and typically have a lifespan of less than a year.

Another opalescent nudibranch.
Looking south from Ecola State Park to Haystack Rock in the distance.

The nudibranch species we saw at Haystack Rock this year is the opalescent nudibranch. They feed on the sea anemones that cover the tidepools around Haystack Rock. However, there are 6 species of nudibranch commonly found in the tidepools around Haystack Rock, which means we still have 5 more types to search for the next time we get a chance to go back.


Mindy Lighthhipe said...

Nudibranchs are my all time favorite sea critter! They come is so many colors and textures. I created a Pinterest board just for them and started collecting them there. Thanks for sharing!!!! Mindy

Gabrielle said...

Hi Mindy,

I'm happy to meet another nudibranch fan! Do you ever paint or draw them? Sorry it took me so long to reply to your comment. Life kind of got in the way there for a while.