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Several species of sacoglossid nudibranchs are being considered in an attempt to control a severe outbreak of the algae Caulerpa taxifolia in the Mediterranean Sea. Check the readers forum of the latest issue of the Opisthobranch Newsletter for all the details on this controversial biological dilemma.
Almost all species of sacoglossids feed upon algae. As the scientific name implies (sacoglossid means shield tongue), this group of gastropods is uniquely equipped to feed on algae, punching a hole in the cell wall with their ribbon of single pointed rachidian teeth. The slug then sucks out the internal cellular material.
Shown above are two species being considered for introduction into the Mediterranean, where a sea is overflowing with food awaits them. First is Elysia subornata. Shaped like a small sea hare, the color of this species varies widely from green to orange to yellow. It always has a brown line along the edge of the mantle fold. The body bears varying degrees of white pigmentation.
The second Caulerpa killer is Oxynoe antillarum. This is one of the shelled opisthobranchs. As with Elysia, the color varies greatly. It may be light green to brown, with various patterns and speckling. The shell is usually covered by a thin fold of the mantle.
Both species are common in the Caribbean, from Florida, the Bahamas and south to Panama. They may soon be common in the Mediterranean too.
Photos contributed by Jeff Hamann of El Cajon, California.
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