Sea Slugs Spark Teamwork

The Academy works with the Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INBio) in Costa Rica to create the first-ever comprehensive inventory of sea slugs along Costa Rica's Pacific coast.

Collecting nudibranchs can't be that difficult. After all, they seem to glow, and are pinstriped and patched with fluorescent oranges, reds, blues and purples. And they glide along algae and rocks so slowly that they are called sea slugs.

But as Academy researchers Yolanda Camacho-García and Monica Medina know, collecting these shiny sliders isn't easy. They can be a half-millimeter in length or up to 20 centimeters. And they range from tide pools to below 3,000 meters of saltwater. In January, the team returned from Costa Rica with 17 new species.

Yolanda Camacho-Garcia examining specimen under microscope
INBio mollusk curator Yolanda Camacho-García examining a specimen under a microscope after a successful day in the field. Photo: Terry Gosliner

 

New species of the genus Cuthona
A new species of the genus Cuthona collected by scuba diving off the Costa Rican coast. Photo: Terry Gosliner

 

Monica Medina collecting nudibranchs
Monica Medina collecting nudibranchs at low tide in Tamacindo Beach, Tempisque conservation Area, Costa Rica. Photo: Terry Gosliner

Camacho-García and Medina, graduate student and postdoctoral fellow, respectively, of Academy Provost and nudibranch expert Terry Gosliner, make a great team. Camacho-García has been turning over coastal rocks and scuba diving to collect, identify, and describe sea slugs for six years, while Medina is diving into DNA. Genetic analysis will determine evolutionary relationships and test whether isolated populations of the same species have drifted apart genetically even though they might look the same.

One major product of this collaboration with INBio will be a guidebook for Pacific Ocean nudibranchs found from Mexico to Ecuador.

Tambja sp. , a new species of nudibranch
Tambja sp. a new species of nudibranch collected in the intertidal zone. Photo: Terry Gosliner