Critters and ShamWows

Walking on St. Kilda’s Beach, outside Melbourne, I espy — amid the entirely pedestrian, albeit not at all ambulatory, pebbles and bits of shell — a slimy, crabby critter. Using my camera’s zoom, I keep my distance while documenting the encounter. Although it’s pretty surely dead, you never know what will jump up and suck your face off.

Critter on St. Kilda's Beach

And then another one, laid out a little differently — pretty surely the same type of critter, more surely dead, and, in any case, less well positioned for jumping up. More confident, I move a little closer to inspect it: in this layout it is more jellyfish than crab.

Dead critter on St. Kilda's Beach

Yet this gelatinous mass does not seem exactly like the only other jellyfish I have seen on this trip, through the glass of an aquarium in Auckland.

Jellyfish in Auckland aquarium

Where is the delicate, diaphanous build that produced the grace in motion of the aquarium specimens? Can these be the same type of critter? I can see I’m going to need some professional confirmation of my tentative identification.

Just in case it matters, I capture a photo with something for scale. Without, ahem, actually touching said critter, you understand. I then back off, carefully. You never know.

Dead critter on St. Kilda's Beach

Appealed to via email, my no-fee zoological consultant confirms that this gooey mass is, indeed, what’s left of a jellyfish. Not a big surprise. I sniff as well as one can via email and make a dismissive comment about invertebrates in general, provoking a slightly terse email in response.

“Google ‘nudibranch’ images.”

And so I do. And what comes next is a big surprise.


NudibranchBut these amazing photos by David Doubilet on the National Geographic Magazine site are just the start. A little poking around reveals The Slug Site, featuring a glorious photo of the slug of the week. But that’s not all!

Enthusiastic text provides helpful links to reviews of Indo-Pacific nudibranchs and sea slugs! An Iberian opisthobranch project! Streaming video of sea slugs! And — and I quote — a really neat slug video!!

And — so help me — it really is a really neat slug video.

I can’t say how I lived this long without hearing about “nudis,” the pretty surely affectionate nickname for sea slugs (and was any critter more in need of a nickname?). But I can say that, at any age, a whole new batch of wonderful critters is not a bad return on the investment of just one hour on the beach and one snippy comment.

If I still had any doubt that you can find anything — anything — on the internet, this pretty much dispels that doubt.

And if I still had any doubt that the world is a higgledy-piggledy stack of pieces of layer cake, each piece with more breadth and depth than I can begin to imagine, this pretty much dispels that doubt, too.

Vince Shlomi, the ShamWow guy, had it right all along: “But wait, there’s more!”


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8 Responses to Critters and ShamWows

  1. Ralph Gibson says:

    Yup. Cool looking, even beautiful critters. And not just pretty faces, mind you. Wander off “Images” and you’ll learn how they “re-gift” the stinging cells of corals that they consume.

  2. Jim Taylor says:

    On a hike last summer, my friends and I spied something off the side of the trail that looked like coral. At 7,000 feet up? Not underwater? It turned out to be a fungus. Okay, a mushroom. And there was more — mushrooms that looked like stag coral, brain coral, fern coral…. They are, of course, known as coral fungi.
    There are so many wonderful things around in this world of ours — if we’re just willing to keep our eyes, and especially our minds, open.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim T – New critters! Never heard of coral fungi. As for keeping the mind open, what’s the old saying? “There are none so blind as those who will not see.”

  3. Back when people were allowed to do such things, a friend taught Sunday School at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. A feature of the suggested lesson plan was to begin with “a wonder,” such as the star you will find if you cut an apple in half on the plane between the stem and blossom end. Thanks so much for providing such wonders to my eyes on this white-out of a snowy Sunday in Ontario. Gorgeous. Glorious.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – Funny (in the funny-synchronicity sense) that you mention a “wonder.” This morning, as I hiked along the wonder-ful washes in this suburb of Metro Phoenix, seeing red-tailed hawks, desert cottontails, Gambel’s quails, and other feathered and furred inhabitants, my subconscious offered me that word – “wonder” – for one of my essay categories. I’ve been thinking about how to reorganize/categorize my essays and this word led me to more . . . It’s really a question about what I’m writing about (although, after 4 years, you’d think I’d know!). Anyway, wonders are, indeed, a wonderful part of our world and our days. And I’m pretty sure I’ve never noticed that about an apple . . .

  4. John Whitman says:

    Having just watched the “really neat video” on sea slugs and finding it really neat as advertised, I must say that I definitely agree with you when you say you can find anything on the internet – as long as you have the wit and the time to look for it.
    John W

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      John – Or the dumb luck to stumble across it, which is usually how I find things! Of course, one’s time might be better spent out in the physical world . . . maybe scuba-diving, for example, to see these critters directly.

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