With its vivid blue and gold colors and its discovery by UC zoologists in 1901, the nudibranch Felimare californiensis, also known as the California chromodorid, has been a favorite species of sea slug for UC marine scientists and students for decades. But while it held a special place in their hearts, it lost its place in local waters, which once included La Jolla, Corona del Mar, Malibu, and Santa Barbara, as well as all but the two westernmost Channel Islands.
This is the Felimare californiensis, a sea slug with the University of California colors, at Catalina Island.
Credit: Kenneth Kopp
"We'll be pretty excited if someone finds the nudibranch in mainland tidepools, after this 35-year hiatus," said Jeff Goddard, project scientist with UCSB's Marine Science Institute. His findings have been published online in a recent edition of the journal Marine Biology.
In the 1970's, the abundant F. californiensis started to disappear from Southern California, and by 1984, was extinct in the region. Its disappearance from the mainland, said Goddard, is unique among the 130 species of sea slugs known to inhabit California waters.
"Its decline is not shared by closely related nudibranchs with similar historical geographic distributions and mode of development," said Goddard, "and is not predicted by warming trends and climate variation over the past 40 years, including the strong El Niño events of 1983 and 1998."
In their paper, Goddard and his collaborators conclude that water pollution from the heavily populated and urbanized southern California mainland is the most likely factor, compounded by historical over-collecting of the nudibranch and habitat loss through the development of major ports and marinas. The researchers suspect that degraded water quality, which reached a low point in the Southern California Bight in the 1970's, affected either the slugs' food –– sponges –– or the cyanobacteria that live in a symbiotic relationship with the sponges, especially near the mainland.
However the deep blue slug with the bright gold spots reappeared in 2003 off Santa Catalina Island, and in 2011 the rare and highly sought animal was again spotted off Santa Cruz Island and off the coast of San Diego.
"Since the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, big strides have been made in reducing pollutants in the Southern California Bight, especially from large wastewater outfalls, and these improvements may have allowed Felimare californiensis to regain a foothold in the region," said Goddard.
The current population status of F. californiensis in Southern California remains tenuous, but Goddard is encouraged by its persistence at Catalina in marine protected areas, including the popular, no-take Casino Point State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA) and the recently established Blue Cavern SMCA.
He and the paper's co-authors, biology professor Ángel Valdés from Cal Poly Pomona; CSU Northridge student researcher Craig Hoover; and visiting colleague and sea slug expert Maria Schaefer plan to continue to monitor the population at Catalina, examine changes in genetic variation in the nudibranch since its decline, and study the distribution and abundance of its sponge prey.
Goddard is also collaborating with Mike Miller, webmaster of the popular Slug Site, on a video about the disappearance of F. californiensis for the 2013 San Diego Undersea Film Festival.
Sonia Fernandez | EurekAlert!
Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München
Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.
Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine
21.10.2016 | Information Technology
21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences