In the closing days of 2010, there were the inevitable year-end compilations of "favorites." Well, to extend that one step further, the "favorite" I enjoyed most was KPCC radio host Madeleine Brand's entertaining conversation with marine biologist Pat Krug, about a new species of sea slug, Flabellina goddardi
, that was discovered off the coast of Santa Barbara last Fall. (Listen here
Krug, who points out that his last name does NOT rhyme with slug, is a scientist at Cal State Los Angeles
and a sea slug
enthusiast. The species Krug finds most enchanting is a local one, Flabellina iodinea
, which he describes as "vivid purple with bright, bright orange feathery projections on its back, and it swims very dynamically. It's just a gorgeous animal."
It turns out sea slugs are surprisingly ubiquitous on our beaches. According to Krug, "You can find them in a few inches of water. You can go to tide pools at any low tide and you can find easily a dozen different species almost anywhere in California." And you don't have to be squeamish — these are not your garden-variety slugs, though they are related. What sets sea slugs apart from their slimy family members are their stunning colors and complex forms. Take a look at these "beauties":
A sea slug may be small in the scheme of things, but concerns about biodiversity have grown in recent years, in tandem with awareness of climate change and the environmental impacts of expanded human development and population growth. As a result, biological taxonomy (the classification of existing and newly discovered organisms) has become integral to a variety of public policy discussions, including decisions about where to designate protected areas or establish National Parks. Biologists and legislators have identified preservation of species diversity and native habitats, and protection from invasive species and environmental impacts of human activity, as priorities.
In fact, the United Nations declared 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity
, with the aim of "celebrating life on earth and the value of biodiversity for our lives." In a recent news release, California Academy of Sciences
summarized its participation in last year's U.N. project: "In an effort to help address this critical need for data about the diversity and distribution of life on our planet, scientists from CAS have spent the past year exploring some of the most diverse - and often most threatened - habitats on earth, searching for new species and creating comprehensive biodiversity maps." CAS scientists ended up contributing 113 new species to the global record in their 12 months of work (including Flabellina goddardi
Though we've moved on from the U.N.'s International Year of Biodiversity, wildlife conservation efforts will continue in 2011. In terms of California's aquatic ecosystem, a vote by the Fish and Game
Commission in December established 49 new marine protected areas that cover about 350 miles of Southern California coastline and will go into effect this year. The LA Times
writes that "California has led the nation in establishing marine reserves
, an idea conceived in response to steep population declines of rockfish, cod, lobster, abalone and other ocean dwellers despite catch limits and other fishing regulations."
Please feel free to share your thoughts on biodiversity (or links to fantastic photos of sea creatures) in a comment below.
Photos (clockwise from top left):