Sea Slugs Make Climate Evolutionary Choices

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"Nudibranchs are a type of sea slug known for their beautiful colors and curious incorporation of other animals and plants into their own bodies (e.g. using plant chloroplasts to photosynthesize, incorporating toxins into their cells, and swallowing anemones’ stinging cells whole to place in their own tentacles). But did you know they also have more nuanced advantages in their habitats, most importantly under climate change scenarios: they appear to be incredibly heat tolerant. Nudibranchs are mollusks, which you may recognize as being mostly shelled animals like clams, snails, and oysters. But nudibranchs have lost their shells over evolutionary time, and still inhabit areas that are exposed to extreme environmental conditions (like in the rocky intertidal zone). They can’t swim away, have no shell, and still survive every tidal cycle (where they get exposed to the hot sun and air for hours at a time!) like it’s no big deal. "


This blog post was originally published in Climate Interpreter in July 2019.


Climate Interpreter and Monterey Bay Aquarium