The Spanish shawl nudibranch, Flabellina iodinea, is named after the shawls worn by Flamenco dancers. It swims gracefully by flexing its body from side to side, almost as if it were dancing. It’s native to the west coast of North America and it has a purple body with orange cerata and red rhinophores. The cerata sticking out of its back are extensions of its digestive system, and they can also extract oxygen from seawater. The rhinophores are the antennae-like appendages on the top of its head, used for sensing.
Its vibrant colors warn predators to stay away. And if they don’t, these nudibranchs have stinging cells called nematocysts in their cerata, which they can fire into a predator’s mouth. These stinging cells actually come from the hydroids and anemones it consumes.
Like sea hares, Spanish shawl nudibranchs are hermaphrodites, meaning they have both male and female reproductive organs. After mating, they lay ribbons of eggs, often on the hydroids that they’ve eaten.
So, essentially, they eat the hydroids, ingest their poison, and then have babies on them.
How awesome is that?!