Toxic nudibranchs—soft, seagoing slugs—produce a brilliant defense

15.05.2008 #Animals

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The 3,000-plus known nudibranch species, it turns out, are well equipped to defend themselves. Not only can they be toughskinned, bumpy, and abrasive, but they've also traded the family shell for less burdensome weaponry: toxic secretions and stinging cells. A few make their own poisons, but most pilfer from the foods they eat. Species that dine on toxic sponges, for example, alter and store the irritating compounds in their bodies and secrete them from skin cells or glands when disturbed. Other nudibranchs hoard capsules of tightly coiled stingers, called nematocysts, ingested from fire corals, anemones, and hydroids.

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