Flameback

The flameback is a species of brightly colored sea slug native to the west coast of South America. Like in most sea slugs, the bright coloration is a warning to potential predators that it is potentially poisonous to some animals. The flameback is carnivorous, eating soft corals and other sessile invertebrates on rocky reefs. Like most sea slugs, this species incorporates toxic chemicals or stinging cells from its prey into its own skin. This ability provides the flameback with a defense mechanism against predators.

The bright orange, white-tipped structures along the flameback’s dorsal surface are called cerata and increase the surface area of the skin. This nudibranch absorbs oxygen through its skin, so increased surface area aids in respiration. The cerata also increase the number of defense cells that the flameback can store from its prey.

Like most small marine invertebrates, little is known about the conservation status of the flameback, but this species has a relatively small home range. Therefore, any significant changes to the rocky reef ecosystems in its range or general threats to the marine environment could risk this naturally rare species.

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