[Disclaimer: I am not a marine biologist or a literary critic.]
Pteraeolidia ianthina reminds me of a feather boa. Photo by Doug Anderson.
In the Preface to the Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth talks about how he sees poetry as being a vehicle “whereby ordinary things should be presented to the mind in an unusual way”. Throughout the Lyrical Ballads he uses the everyday to discuss the divine – We Are Seven is a conversation with a child which leads to a discussion about perceptions of life and death, in Tintern Abbey his ruminations on ruins lead to an epiphany of the self and the sublime.
As much as I have struggled with Wordsworth in the past, I really like this way of thinking about the divine in the everyday. I am terrified by space, open oceans or the tallest trees. However, I am infinitely interested in plant cells, pebbles, fingerprints and pencils. I love the everyday and the small because in that’s where I find the infinite and the wonderful.
So I guess it is no surprise that nudibranchs fascinate me. They are small, and glorious.
I found out about nudibranchs by becoming one of them. My friend Greer needed some volunteers to dress up for a river cleanup. There were various sea-themed costumes: albatross, lobster, a shark and… a nudibranch! As I donned my costume (a pink sack with white spikes on the back – pictures to come), I vowed to find out more about these odd creatures. Consequently, I fell in love with them.
Separated at birth? Nudibranch and Kirby. Photo of Ceratosoma amoena by Doug Anderson.
Nudibranchs are a type of sea slug that is found pretty much everywhere from the antarctic to the tropics, but they seem especially prevalent in the coral reefs around the Philippines. They feed on types of sponges, jelly fish, and each other and get this: they can absorb poison and use it against their predators! They are the Kirbys of the sea! [Side note: What is the plural of Kirby? Kirbies? Kirbys? Kirbi? Kirbuses?]
Here is a nudibranch having a small feast.
Besides all that, nudibranchs are *gorgeous*. Just take a small glimpse at Nudi Pixel (one of my favourite sites) to see why. They are found in almost every color I can think of, with crazy spikes, fins or frills. At the time, I thought that this inexplicable array of seemingly unneccessary diversity might be proof that there is a God. Now I think of it as proof that, even if there is no God, at least life isn’t boring. To me nudibranchs are like underwater poetry: they present the ordinary, a sea slug, to my mind in an outrageously unusual way.