Melibe leonina nudibranchs are weird and awesome
Nudibranchs never cease to amaze me. Just when I think I've had enough nudibranchs for, like, ever, a new one I've never seen before comes along and voilà, instant nudibranch love affair all over again.
I'd seen the Melibe leonina nudibranch in photos but never in the flesh (in the slime?). Then we went for a shore dive (gasp!) the other night in La Jolla and, as it usually happens with La Jolla Shores, "never seen before" instantly became "have seen trillions, and in fact this creature is basically old hat to me." So it was with Melibe leonina. Boom. Trillions.
About the Melibe leonina nudibranch
Melibe leonina is also known as the hooded nudibranch or lion's mane nudibranch because its mouth looks like a hoodie fringed with tentacles. It is carnivorous and generally hunts while attached to kelp or grass by extending its oral hood and closing it around its prey like a Venus Flytrap. The tentacles lock the prey in.
The rhinopores look like little ears.
The body is translucent, so you can see its innards. These are called diverticula, which is basically a fancy word for "innards that you can see because the nudibranch is translucent." SCIENCE.