Report: Nudibranch Safari 2012

Last weekend, people from all over Europe gathered at Gulen Dive Resort to learn more about nudibranchs. As usual the house reef did not disappoint us - two new species turned up.


Nudibranch Safari organizer Christian Skauge examining one of the most exciting species found on the 2012 Nudibranch Safari - a possible Berghia norvegica not seen since the original discovery by Nils Ohdner in 1939.


Posted on Mar 30, 2012
The Nudibranch Safari took place at Gulen Dive Resort on the Norwegian west coast for the third time this year.

A total of 15 participants from Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, the Faroe Islands and Norway made this year's safari the most international one so far - nudibranch lovers are found almost anywhere, it seems.

Expert scientists

As on previous safaris the two nudibranch experts Jussi Evertsen and Torkild Bakken from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim were present to share their knowledge and help with identification of the collected species.

They have been running a nudibranch identification project since 1997, and are the definite authorities on the Norwegian species.

» Click here to visit Nudibranchia.no

Not only did they bring their field equipment including stereoscopes, they also gave talks about their project and about nudibranchs in general. The participants had a run-through of the most important families and species on friday morning, before getting in the water to see if they could find them in the wild.

30 different species were identified

In total, the participants found, photographed and collected a total of 30 nudibranch species. Two species of other opisthobranchs were also found - the sea hare Aplysia punctata and the solar-powered sea slug Elysia viridis.

Due to a very short and mild winter the water temperature was as high as 7ºC, which is 3-4ºC warmer than usual. Although a little more pleasant for the divers, this greatly affects the nudibranchs who love cold water.

 

A total of 30 species were turned up during the 2012 Nudibranch Safari at Gulen Dive Resort - among them many species of Flabellina.

We saw very few of the shallow-living dorid species, and both the Eubranchus and Cuthona families were scarce. This meant that many of the species considered to be some of the most common was not found, and the final species list contained many quite rare nudibranchs.

We had good hydroid growth so the Flabellina species were abundant, but the experts noted in their summary that we had found very few species feeding on sponges and soft coral.

The conditions forced us a little deeper to find good numbers of nudibranchs, which probably 'cost us' at least 10 species.

Please click on the image to see a slideshow from the Nudibranch Safari:

As usual, Flabellina lineata was one of the most commonly found species on the house reef - both in its 'classic' form but also in the more pigmented variation which is common at Gulen.

» Click here to read more about the Flabellina lineata variations

Among the 30 species found this year, two called for special attention - Doto hystrix and even more exciting, a possible Berghia norvegica.

Doto hystrix for the first time?

Although it might have been found once or twice on the house reef before, this the experts were able to officially document this cryptic nudibranch for the first time in Norway - and it could be added to the official species list.

Like most Doto's the Doto hystrix can be very hard to identify, and a lot more work seems to be necessary on this family to get all the identifications right.

Being incredibly small (5-10mm) they are very hard to find, and many of the Doto species look almost excactly the same.

Berghia norvegica rediscovered?

The other rare species that turned up was even more exciting: In the opinion of the scientists, it is probably a Berghia norvegica, a species described by Nils Ohdner in 1939 and never seen since.

If this turns out to be the case, it is quite sensational - in several ways: For once, it is a quite large species, the biggest one measuring in at 30 millimetres - and we found lots of it.

At least 12 specimens were literally turned up - this good-looking orange aeolid seems to prefer hiding under rocks and empty seashells.

The possible Berghia was first discovered by Bjørnar Nygård and myself in December 2010, and I found it again in both January and April of 2011.

In spite of finding the possible Berghia norvegica both before and after, it did not turn up during last years Nudibranch Safari - even with plenty of very experienced 'nudibranch hunters' present.

In April last year become evident that we had found something very much out of the ordinary, and a specimen was sent to the university for identification. However, they needed more material to be able to determine the species, and it was with great anticipation we started looking for it again this year.

Fortunately it did turn up in large enough numbers for the scientists to work on, and we will hopefully see a confirmation of the species shortly. If it does not match the original description however, we are most likely talking about a completely new species...

Sunshine, waffles and nudibranch nerds

Even though Mother Nature made it a little harder for us in some respects, she repaid the effort with brilliant weather, completely flat sea and great visibility.

It is not often one can sit outside with the books and stereoscopes, enjoying in-between-dive waffles and get a nice tan at the same time - but this is what we experienced all weekend! It sure was a nice change from the wet weather we had the days before the safari program started.

The house reef was explored both deep and shallow, and we discovered and re-discovered different dive routes giving us plenty of variation both in terms of the diving itself and also the nudibranch species found.

This year, two special spots even got their own names: In the future, Nudie Rock and Porcelain Bay adds to the folklore of the house reef along with already well-known spots like Decoland and The Red Light District.

Nudie Rock yielded an astonishing 22 slugs of 9 different species in less than a square metre! Join us for the 2013 Nudibranch Safari to experience these spots for yourself.

» Click here to read more about the Nudibranch Safari 2013

Even though conditions change from one year to another, it doesn't affect the workshop itself: The participants learned a lot about nudibranchs, and found a great number of species.

For those who took part last year it was very interesting to see how these changes affected the number of nudibranchs and what species were found.

As an afterthought, it should be mentioned that we have perhaps become a little complacent after finding such huge numbers of species the last couple years: 30 species is actually almost a third of all Norwegian species, and around half the species found at diveable depths.

All this was found just on the house reef, and with the addition of two species not previously documented in Norway the safari can be deemed as nothing but a great success. At least we are still able to keep the scientists busy even after three years!

I would like to thank all the participants for joining the Nudibranch Safari, and hope everyone had a great time. Thanks also to Gulen Dive Resort for the excellent hosting - not to mention the great effort by the two scientist. See you again next year!

» Click here to read more about the Nudibranch Safari 2013








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ScubaPixel
Christian Skauge
Etterstadsletta 4 G
N-0660 Oslo, Norway


   

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