So we all have that friend who’s really interested in animal phylogeny, the study of the evolutionary history of organisms and their groupings. Wait… we don’t all have that friend? Is it only me?
Well in any case, my phylo-friend (whose name is Margrethe, but who is not the Queen of Denmark) posted about an amazing recent discovery: the Blue Dragon, or Glaucus atlanticus, which washed up on the shores of Queensland, Australia recently.
Of course, my friend wouldn’t just stop at this, but instead had to up the ante by saying “Possibly my favorite nudibranch.”
I was baffled by the word, so replied with “You’re my favorite nudibranch. What the heck is a nudibranch?” Then she clarified that the nudibranchs (it’s pronounced nudi-brank… which is why the plural is nudibranchs and not nudibranches) are commonly known as sea slugs. I apologized for calling her a sea slug, then I realized she loves phylogeny and probably finds the nudibranchs beautiful and might have taken it as a compliment.
It turns out she did, thank goodness. I’d hate to offend someone by calling them a sea slug. Then we all lived happily ever after in our little castles of weirdness and esoteric interests!
Then I thought “nudibranch” was such a funny term, that it was worth further investigation.
Well, apparently the order nudibranchia is a big group. Nudi comes from the Latin word for “naked” (no real surprise there, I suppose) and branch comes from the Latin word for gills (which is a surprise). So they have naked gills.
Who comes up with this stuff? I can just imagine some moustachioed zoologist from the 1800’s saying, “You know, chap, I think ‘naked gills’ is a splendid phylogenic classification! Jolly good and all that rot!” and so the nudibranch was named. I don’t care if you have so-called “facts” on your side. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
And now, I present, the BoFN’s first ever Nudi-calendar, courtesy of a little site known as Wikipedia. Enjoy the naked-gill action! Not safe for work… or is it?!?
I hope you’ve enjoyed our little detour into the Order Nudibranchia. Who knows what kind of wacky stuff the BoFN will come up with next? Until next time, make sure to know your audience before you tell a friend they’re your favorite sea slug!