Happy Saint Patrick's Day! And now for a post that has nothing at all to do with Saint Patrick's Day!
I wish I had the time to create an individualized award for everyone I know, but alas, real life nips at my heels. So for my very last award, I present the Nudie! (a.k.a The Nudibranch Award)
What, you were expecting a picture?
All right, but how to choose?
Nudibranchs, you see, come in all sorts of shapes and colors. If you can imagine a crazy design, there's probably a nudibranch out there to match it. If your sugar-crazed kid scribbles out a random crayon disaster, they've most likely drawn an actual species of nudibranch.
Nudibranchs are a bit like sea slugs, though not true sea slugs. Their name nudi branch means "naked gill," referring to their exposed gills - snails without shells, one might say. They are...well, how can I describe them? They are just the coolest darn things. When I taught outdoor classes in marine ecology, one of my coworkers was absolutely nuts for the little guys. Her excitement was contagious, and pretty soon we were all nudibranch hunting. Whenever we had a few in our bucket, we'd all gather around and watch them for five, ten, twenty minutes.
Some of them drift through the water peacefully, like the Hooded Nudibranch, which smells like watermelon when you lift it out of the water. Some of them can crawl upside-down on the water's surface, clinging to the surface tension. Some eat stinging anemones and incorporate the stingers into their bodies as their own defense.And nudies are tough, man.
They can regenerate lost body parts, though sometimes it takes a while. When we kept them in our educational aquarium, they had a baffling tendency to get drawn to the outlet pipe, where they would end up getting sucked into the front of the grate until someone came along and rescued them. With their flimsy-looking little bodies, you'd think such a battering would leave them in a pretty bad way, but they always bounced back.
Some are actually rather aggressive. Opalescent Nudibranchs will fight each other in a head-to-head death match, winner eats the loser. But they're not tough enough to survive in polluted waters, and they have the bad fortune to prefer coastal habitat, where pollution is often the worst.
Nudibranchs are found all across the world, 3000 species and counting. New ones are being discovered all the time. You can have your space exploration, but I don't think you'll find anything wilder than what's right here.
Oh hey! There's a green one just for St. Patty's Day! And here I thought I didn't have a tie-in.
Because nudibranchs come in so many wonderful varieties, I found it only appropriate to use them for my final award. The Nudie goes to...
Yes, you! If you are one of the many varied, wonderful people who have faithfully read and/or commented here, then this award is for you! It's my way of showing my appreciation, a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!
The rainbow is there to make up for the fact that the featured Alabaster Nudibranch is more or less devoid of color. The Alabaster is a common nudie in my neck of the ocean, one of my favorites.
But if rainbows aren't you're thing, here's an alternative. The Hooded Nudibranch!
All right, so the Hooded Nudibranch looks like a teddy bear that went through the garbage disposal. In real life they are graceful masters of the water, honestly! (And they smell like watermelons. And they don't really look much like this.)
Here's another try. What about the Shaggy Mouse Nudibranch?
While it may be impossible to design a neat-looking award starring a nudibranch, that doesn't negate the fact that you, my readers, are the neatest bunch around. D'aaaw! Hooray for everyone!
Next week, blog posts that don't involve hours of drawing...hopefully.
All cool nudibranch photos courtesy the National Geographic site.