Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.
sea slug

Sea Slugs on the Move: Bent on World Domination, or Opportunistic Travel Bums?

Polycera atra (top) and Polycera hedgpethi on Bugula brozoan prey San Luis Obispo County, California

    Sea Slugs on the Move: Bent on World Domination, or Opportunistic Travel Bums? With the passing of the very low, very early morning tides of summer, tidepooling minds must reluctantly turn away from the outer edges of our coastline for a few months, until the autumn minus tides return in mid-October. And what better topic to occupy our Covid/smoke/asteroid/politics stressed minds than possible world domination by sea slugs? I exaggerate, of course. We won’t be marching in lines and waving tiny nudibranch flags any time soon. But there has been a quiet movement of sea slug populations taking …

Continue Reading

Catch Up On Morro Bay Estuary Wildlife Blog Series

    Most of us are spending more of our free time time at home, taking socially-distanced walks along the bay or finding refuge on less-traveled trails. Whether you’re taking time to notice all the details of the green spaces you already knew well or branching out to new near-home destinations, you may be seeing some wildlife you don’t yet know. To help you identify and get to know a little bit about some of our native species, we’re sharing a few of our favorite series with you this week. Learn Native Plants by Habitat Type This series introduces you …

Continue Reading

The Perfect Social Distancing Activity: Early Morning Tidepooling for Nudibranchs in San Luis Obispo County

A Limacia cockerelli nudibranch from the front. It is white with orange-tipped cerata.

    Now through October is the peak of the nudibranch-viewing season. Wait, what? You didn’t know there was a season for looking at nudibranchs? Well, there is, at least for some of the flashiest species found in the tidepools of the Central Coast. Scuba divers have a bit more time and options, but for those of us who look for nudibranchs with our heads above water, the early morning hours of late summer offer us some of the best opportunities to see these colorful marine gastropods in the intertidal. In previous blogs for the Estuary Program, I’ve gone into …

Continue Reading

Rare Nudibranch! Two Citizen Scientists find Cerberilla pungoarena in the Morro Bay Estuary

Cerberilla pungoarena in Morro Bay. Copyright passiflora4, Laura Schachterle and Thomas Hintz.

    Cerberilla pungoarena (Collier & Farmer, 1964) is one of those rare nudibranchs you may never see: only a few subtidal specimens have been reported since the mid-2000s. But now, fifteen years later and further north than they have ever been seen before, a single specimen of C. pungoarena was spotted and photographed a few months ago in shallow water in the Morro Bay Estuary by two intrepid nudibranch enthusiasts, Laura Schachterle and Thomas Hintz.  Nudibranchs are shell-less marine molluscs commonly called sea slugs. There are over 130 species of nudibranchs found in California, many brightly-colored. “Great find and …

Continue Reading

Updates from the Field, December 2019: wildlife, staff changes, and restoration

Morro Bay estuary with bat ray pits, Morro Bay National Estuary Program

    Wildlife observations The fall is a great time for observing invertebrates along the mudflat in Morro Bay, and lucky for us, we are out monitoring eelgrass every fall. This often leaves us wondering, “What is this?!”, but sometimes we find the answers while monitoring eelgrass health. For example, we have been seeing a number of egg masses such as this one, tucked away on blades of eelgrass. Considering the diverse array of organisms that utilize eelgrass as habitat, we were left wondering which creature had been laying the eggs. Sometimes though, you wander along the right part of …

Continue Reading

Sea Clowning Around: Triopha maculata and Triopha catalinae, by Robin Agarwal

Triopha Maculata Sun Salutation, photographed in Santa Cruz, CA by Robin Agarwal

  Spotted Triopha or Triopha maculata One of the most charming creatures found along the Central California coast is the Spotted Triopha nudibranch (Triopha maculata). With its colorful body, white polka dots, and bushy “beard”—properly called papillae—on the edge of its oral veil, this engaging sea slug is one of the most common you’ll encounter year-round, either on a dive or during a casual inspection of tidepools at low tide.  Triopha maculata color variants The only minor difficulty is realizing that you’re looking at one. Spotted Triophas come in at least two color variants that caused even veteran scientists to …

Continue Reading

A Sea Slug by Any Other Name, Guest Post by Robin Agarwal

Acanthodoris lutea nudibranch smells like citrus or cedar

This is the fifth post in our Sea Slug of the Month series by guest author, Robin Agarwal. A Sea Slug by Any Other Name: One Grossly Derivative Title Covering Three Random Thoughts About Scented Sea Slugs, Hopkins’s Rose, and the Ongoing Bother About Names “that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet” —Juliet in Romeo & Juliet, William Shakespeare Although she was not particularly noted for her tidepool explorations, Juliet may have been surprised to discover that three of the nudibranchs (shell-less marine molluscs) living along the Central California Coast actually emit scents …

Continue Reading

Sea Slug of the Month – Yellow Blobs of Awesomeness, Guest Post by Robin Agarwal

    Yellow Blobs of Awesomeness: Sea Goddesses, Sea Lemons and That One with the Tentacles Guest post by Robin Agarwal   Humans like sea slugs. They’re harmless to humans, but voracious predators if you’re a hydroid or a sponge. They come in a variety of cool shapes and sizes, and have fascinating life histories that allow one to throw around words like ‘nudi’ and ‘hermaphrodite’ with impunity in mixed company. But best of all, nudibranchs appeal mightily to humans’ attraction to pattern and color. We cannot resist taking a closer look at something bright and colorful as we explore …

Continue Reading

Sea Slug of the Month – Morro Bay’s ‘Gateway Nudi:’ Opalescent Nudibranch, Guest Post by Robin Agarwal

Three Opalescent Nudibranchs (Hermissenda opalescens). Photograph courtesy of Robin Agarwal via Flickr Creative Commons License

    “Whoaaaa…what is THAT?” “It’s gorgeous, whatever it is.” “It’s moving!” “Dude, check this out!” “So BLUE!” “What IS it?” Music to a science educator’s ears, of course, thanks to the astonishing colors and reasonably viewable size of one of California’s most iconic sea slug species, the Opalescent Nudibranch (Hermissenda opalescens). Found throughout the Central California coast, these brightly-colored carnivores are often the first nudibranchs to astonish and delight the humans venturing into their intertidal world during seasonal low tides. Photograph of Opalescent nudibranch, (Hermissenda opalescens) taken in Monterey, California. Courtesy of Robin Agarwal, under Creative Commons license via …

Continue Reading

Field Updates July 2018: Reports, Mollusks in Eelgrass, and Fish in the Creeks

We commonly spot this nudibranch, Hermissenda crassicornis, in depressions along the mudflat.

    Fulfilling our mission to protect and restore the Morro Bay estuary for people and animals requires a lot of hard work in the field. At the Estuary Program, that often means spending time doing research and monitoring work out on the water. Read on to see what we’ve been up to during the past month. Data and reporting July was a quiet month for fieldwork. This has given the monitoring staff time to get caught up on data entry and report writing. Keep an eye out for a series of reports related to the health of the estuary …

Continue Reading