Flabellina sp.(Pacific coast of Mexico south to Costa Rica)
Wow, another year has gone by and 52 more "Opisthobranch of the Week" columns have appeared here on Mike Miller's Slug Site. Sunday mornings are still at time to worship and a time to log on and see what fantastic creature Mike has put up this week. In a World full of instability and insecurity one thing we can count on is our weekly hit of Branch action here at the Site. Thanks Mike for making this happen for us.
With the New Year Mike offers a beautiful little critter from a person who was new also to the Branching community just last year. Now she is making Bahia de Banderas the Branching hot spot of the world. Ali, as many of you know is working on her doctorial thesis on the opisthobranch fauna of the Puerto Vallarta region of Mexico. Since she began collecting there she has discovered dozens of new species. This new Flabellina is just one.
Mike received the following from Ali as a little New Years Eve gift:
"...This is the second time I have come across this beautiful animal. At the beginning of this year I saw one specimen in Islas Marietas (Bahia de Banderas). I collected it, took some tub shots and put it right back, only to find out from many of my expert friends that it looked like something undescribed. A few days later, Peter Ajtai sent pictures to Bill Rudman's Sea SlugForum of something he photographed in Costa Rica that looked a lot like my critter." "So this gorgeous guy is sitting in my longer than I care to admit list of lost and not again found unidentified opisthobranchs of Bahia de Banderas. Last week, I got to put him back on my "found list" since I saw quite a few of them, now at Isla Isabel (Nayarit). My friend Pedro took the photo of it right where it lives, showing us all the reason I had not seen it again. I also found one specimen with a color variation, this one looks more like the one I had seen before. The egg masses were on the same gorgonian and are bright pink." "Isla Isabel it is one of the tiny (190 ) islands off the coast of Nayarit which has been devastated by introduced species of plants and animals by the fishermen (corn, orange trees, rats, cats, etc.) over and over until it was declared a protected area by the Mexican government. Extensive research has been done on land of the several species of marine birds inhabiting there. My colleagues, Pedro and Amilcar have also been studying the corals there for quite some time now. The one of the specimens that Ortea and Llera used to describe Peltodoris nayarita was collected in Isla Isabel. I did find 23 different species of opisthobranchs, altogether, during my 2 day survey there..."
Since Peter posted his photos of the Forum we have learned that Terry Gosliner collected the species in the Bay of Panama some years back. Ali's specimens here make up the most northern occurrence for the species..."
When I first saw this beauty I thought to myself - How could we have missed this brightly colored animal all these years? Pedro's photo of the the animal on its prey gorgonian tells it all. What amazing camouflage!
The coastline in the vicinity of Puerto Vallarta was hit by a hundred year storm in October. Ali feared that damage from the storm might severely damage her study sites. She writes - "...Hurricane Kena came into the states of Jalisco and Nayarit on October 25th, 2002. The biggest damage in the town of Puerto Vallarta were due to the wave action and not the rains or winds. We can say now everything is back to normal, with the city officials immediate and only 2 month long extensive rebuilding campaign. The underwater tale is harder to tell, if you have never been there, you might not notice anything, but knowing the area, you can tell how things were shuffled down there by the 30 feet waves and surge. Some of the big Pavona coral colonies in Islas Marietas were hurt badly and we are still collecting debris of all sorts during our dives. What happened to the nudibranchs? Unfortunately I do not have enough previous data to know for sure. The past 2 months I have found withing normal numbers of species and specimens, therefore I guess in time I will be able to tell more..."
If humans can repair storm damage this quickly, you can bet Mother Nature can do a better job. Often storms open up new habitat where species can flourish. Hopefully the waters of Bahia Banderas will be as diverse and healthy as ever is the coming weeks.
From Mike, Ali and all of us behind the scenes at Sea Slug Central - we wish you a Safe, Healthy and very Happy New Year.
Webmaster's Notes: In April of 2002 I was invited down to Puerto Vallarta by Ali and Roberto to participate in a branching field trip along with Sandra Millen of Vancouver, British Columbia. Sandra had arrived a good week or so before me and it was evident that Ali's unbridled enthusiasm was wearing Sandra out and I could envison myself as next in line. What the heck, I packed an ample supply of geritol to get through the trip! What I saw in the way of Pan American branchs at Bahia de Banderas exceeded my wildest expectations. Sandra and myself were both beset by camera problems, I had little enough time to see all the branchs Ali and all the mexican branchers were coming up with. The camera shutdown had mixed blessings. Going in without it enabled sufficient time to ponder all the magnificent animals Ali and gang were finding!
I would like to take this opportunity to totally endorse the dive operation Ali and Roberto's are associated with
Vallar-Tech in Puerto Vallarta for any nudiphile who would like to experience the Pan American branching scene! Their operation is first class and Ali and associates will certainly find enough branchs to rekindle memories of the trip for years to come. This recommendation comes without any special financial considerations on their part. I paid the same as everyone else. They can arrange hotel accomodations very convenient to the dive operation.
Ali can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
David W. Behrens
Pacific Coast Nudibranchs
Send Dave mail at email@example.com