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The Kid Should See This

Sea Slug Census: Unveiling invisible ecological shifts with citizen science

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What is an indicator species? Why do nudibranchs, over 2,000 species of sea slugs, have such bright colors? And what is a Sea Slug Census?

Listen as Professor Steve Smith, co-founder of the Sea Slug Census, talks with marine biologist and filmmaker Stefan Andrews about the 2023 Great Southern Reef (GSR) Sea Slug Census (SSC) across Australia’s southern coast. Dozens of vibrant nudibranchs are featured during the conversation. From Professor Smith:

“An indicator is an organism that tells you something about the health of your environment. The reason we use sea slugs as indicators is because they have a couple of really important traits.”

colorful nudibranchs

“One is they have very short life cycles, so they turn over very quickly. This means they’ll only come back to a habitat if that habitat actually has the appropriate shelter, food, habitat, whatever. So, this makes them incredibly habitat dependent.

“If there’s a shift in the organisms living in an area that sea slugs are dependent on, you won’t see those sea slugs. So potentially, they can turn over really, really quickly, and they can tell us something about health, environment.”

colorful nudibranch
Nudibranchs’ bold colors and patterns warn predators of their toxicity, camouflage them among their hydroid and anemone prey, and attract mates, which is essential given that nudibranchs have reduced visual capabilities.

The conversation delves into various topics, including the crucial role of nudibranchs in detecting environmental changes such as climate-related range extensions. It also highlights the importance of recording sea slug data through citizen science initiatives like the Sea Slug Census, hosted on iNaturalist. The second half of the video includes more scientific detail.

colorful nudibranch
Learn more about the Great Southern Reef Foundation and educator resources, and see the colorful nudibranch species observed during the 2023 GSR SSC.

And learn with these related videos next:
β€’ These stunning sea slugs steal β€˜weapons’ from their ingested hydroid prey
β€’ 117 Nudibranchs & Sea Slugs from Lembeh, Indonesia
β€’ Glaucilla marginata: Beautiful blue dragon nudibranchs

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