It’s like hitting the jackpot if you’re a “fish-nerd kind of guy,” says self-described fish nerd Lee Newman, the Vancouver Aquarium’s tropical waters curator. He’s referring to coming across an undescribed (by science) species in one of his behind-the-scenes aquariums – this one happens to be a type of nudibranch.

A nudibranch (pronounced newdy-brank) is a kind of sea slug. Its Latin-Greek name means “naked gills,” which makes sense because most nudibranchs lack a protective shell, exposing their gills to the elements. The yellow and white projections (called cerata) on this undescribed nudibranch’s back are its naked gills. Two horn-like projections on its head (called rhinophores) are used to taste and smell.

Lee Newman, tropical waters curator at the Vancouver Aquarium, takes a dip in local waters. Photo credit: Danny Kent

Lee couldn’t immediately identify this nudibranch so he asked an “authority” on nudibranchs who was able to tell him that this particular sea slug belongs to the genus Phyllodesmium – but it doesn’t have a species name or common name. For now, it’s been nicknamed the “candy corn” nudibranch for its cerata’s resemblance to the yellow, orange and white-striped Halloween candy. Stretched out, it’s about the length of a paper clip.

Lee says it’s exciting to come across an undescribed species (which must have hitched a ride on a rock), but he’s not at all surprised. He says that’s because coral reefs are by and large inaccessible, complex and rich in species diversity, so new discoveries are bound to be made.

As for this new Aquarium resident, Lee says they’ll be keeping a close eye on it as they continue to experiment with a feeding regimen.

Watch it below and notice that apart from its rhinophores, it also has two other sensory projections called “oral tentacles” sticking out from its head.


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11 Responses

  1. Alistair Mclean

    I have found one of these creatures in my aquarium at home what should i do with it?

  2. Lauren

    I think that new discovery of yours at the Aquarium should be called “Candy Corn” as soon as I saw the picture the first thing that came into my head was ” Candy Corn” that you get at Halloween.
    Great pictures by the way 🙂

    • Jude

      candy corn was also the first thing that came to mind. Just discovered the “marine detective” detective site this morning and have looked at lots of the photo’s. All stunning.

  3. shannon ezekiel

    I think you should call him Newman. It explains who discovered him and is such a cute name for an adorable discovery.

  4. Annie

    Thank you for showing us your delightful nudibranch. Good Luck with finding what it likes/needs to eat. It seems spectacularly-well adapted for the Life it was leading.. wherever that was.
    Am still smiling from watching your film clip. I can see the similarities to other sea slugs [n land slugs, in fact], but have never seen anything like this little beauty. Nudibranch, indeed.. experts in nudibranchs, even.. who knew??


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