This alien creature found scampering along the sea bed with its 13 legs left a diver baffled.
But that is not its most bizarre trait. Its head, which looks completely transparent, somehow expands to three times its original size as it scours the ocean floor for food.
A row of razor-sharp teeth line the weird-shaped head, scraping up any food that it comes in contact with.
Recreational diver Emeric Benhalassa captured this unusual, remarkable footage on video recently at Puri Jati, off the coast of Bali, Indonesia. The footage was posted to YouTube on Oct. 2.
Viewers hazarded several guesses as to what the creature could be.
Twas Brillig said: “A type of nudibranch or sea cucumber is my guess,” while Joe Gonzalez said: “Looks like it belongs to the star fish family but I have no clue.”
Benhalassa identified the peculiar alien creature as a nudibranch, a predatory marine mollusk with an elongated body framed by varying numbers of limb pairs.
This alien creature was found to be a rare sea slug called a Melibe viridis, which is native to the Indian and western Pacific oceans. It also has been found in the Mediterranean Sea, which it likely reached via the Suez Canal, according to a July 2003 study published in the journal Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences.
Melibe viridis, which can reach up to 5 inches (13 centimeters) in length, is unusual-looking, to say the least — its body texture resembles a wad of leafy greens that has been partly chewed and then spit back out. The individual in the video appears to have seven pairs of oar-shaped limbs, with the biggest ones close to the front of its body and the smallest pairs closest to its tapering back end.
But the creature’s most striking feature by far is a large, balloon-like sac at the front of its body, which it uses to catch crustacean prey by casting the loose folds like a net to engulf its meal. Melibe viridis gulps down its prey and ingests it whole, scientists have found — dissections of several specimens revealed intact crabs in the nudibranchs’ stomachs.
In the video, though the nudibranch’s body doesn’t move much, its “head” repeatedly extends forward and flattens on the seafloor while the oral opening gapes wide, searching the ocean bottom for tasty morsels like shrimp or tiny crabs. Sensory structures line the edges of the opening; when these hairs touch the nudibranch’s prey, the sack contracts and traps the prey inside, where it is ingested.
And because it’s completely blind the hood helps it navigate its way across the sea bed. Although it looks like it is walking across the sea floor, what it’s actually doing is swimming by slithering side to side.
And if you think nudibranch feeding habits look strange, nudibranch sex is even weirder.
Nudibranchs are hermaphroditic, possessing both male and female sex organs. But instead of self-fertilizing as some hermaphroditic animals do, nudibranchs exchange chemical signals during mating to determine which of the pair will assume the female role.
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