Meet the Drag Queens of the Sea

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Nudibranchs, pronounced (nooda-brank).

I discovered these little lovelies eight years ago while doing my professional dive training alongside an obsessive sea slug enthusiast and have since become obsessive myself. No dive is satisfactory without them, no waters worthy unless they contain a healthy collection of species and specimens. I am baffled by customers who tell me not to point them out and aghast when people aren’t totally enthralled with these glitteringly bizarre, eccentrically unique, drag queens of the sea.IMG_4686

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Nudibranchs, or nudis for short, come in many shapes and sizes from tiny millimeter long gooey rice grains to three-pound, foot-long globs of colorful flesh. Not just colorful, each of the over 3,000 species has it’s own lavish dress code. Some prefer a simple yet peculiarly transparent sheath while others go for bright shades of lemon yellow, purple polka-dotted mantles and headdresses in magenta and blue.

But nudis are cool beyond their colors. Extraordinary in every way, nudis vary from solar-powered sand crawlers to coral munching “dancers”, mobile via a strange repertoire of wiggly, graceful undulations. They are also hermaphrodites, cannibals and could hold the secret to curing cancer.

But really they are just fun to look at!

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I might as well start somewhere

03082013 184“There’s nothing wrong with enjoying looking at the surface of the ocean itself, except that when you finally see what goes on underwater, you realize that you’ve been missing the whole point of the ocean. Staying on the surface all the time is like going to the circus and staring at the outside of the tent.”

Dave Barry