By Cole Quinton

Grab your magnifying glass, your snorkel and start regulating those oxygen tanks as we dive into the open ocean and explore the world of the Glaucus atlanticus where we meet the little beauty that is the world’s only underwater dragon. If you are in the middle of the Atlantic, Pacific or Indian ocean and you have an extremely efficient magnifying glass and calm waters, then you may be lucky enough to spot a Blue Dragon floating along the surface or nearby with the help of the air bubble it has stored in its stomach, or if you are a beach goer then you may be unlucky enough to run into a “blue fleet” (a group of Blue Dragons which were taken ashore shore). How do you know what a Blue Dragon looks like? It has a silvery grey colour on its dorsal side facing the waters below because it floats upside down to blend in with the light from the sea surface, concealing it from predators below (Loggerhead sea turtles being the only known marine predator). The Blue Dragon is dark and pale blue on its ventral side with blue stripes on its head, they use the blue colour of the ocean to camouflage into their surroundings. It has a flat, tapering body and 6 appendages that branch out into rayed, finger like cerata, and is only a miniscule 3 cm in length. 

Though the Blue Dragon lacks in stature it is not something to take lightly, they take on fearsome beasts of the sea, like a mighty Man of War (a strange creature that looks like a jellyfish but actually belongs to the siphonophores) and other creatures such as blue bottle jellyfish, and some Blue Dragons have even been documented to be cannibalistic, but only when faced with an injured or recently deceased fellow Blue Dragon. To appreciate the Blue Dragon’s defence we need to first understand the defence of the creatures that it feeds on, the Man of war, one of the oceans creatures with one of the most painful and deadly stings, uses cnidocytes that are cells that shoot off threadlike, often toxic, tubule inside the cnidocyst. When the Blue Dragon eats its venomous prey they don’t completely digest them, they keep the stinging cells (nematocysts) and store them in the tips of their cerata to use as a defence tool. If you’ve heard of the power of the sting that the Man of War posses, this could be enough to send shivers down your spine every time you hear their name. The Blue dragons are able to concentrate the nematocysts and unfired cnidocytes along with the jellyfish tissue which makes the sting far more potent than the Man of War’s. 

You must be wondering how more of these bad boys get made, well they are hermaphroditic, and they cannot fertilize their own eggs so there is no time to be antisocial because they must find a mate to reproduce with. Our small, blue, friends produce eggs in long, spiral shaped egg strings that float freely in the water or stick to surfaces, but typically they lay their eggs in their prays dead carcasses. So, would you like to go swimming with these beautiful blue devils? Well guess what? If you’ve ever swam in the Atlantic or Pacific ocean you have, congratulations! 


Heimbuch, J. (February 16, 2017). 3 fascinating facts about the blue dragons of the sea. Mother Nature Network. Retrieved November 27th, 2019 from

Hines, N. (June 19, 2018). Meet the blue dragon, the world’s most beautiful – and deadly – slug. Allthatsinteresting. Retrieved November 27th, 2019 from 

Kelly,A. & Olson,E. (August 7, 2014). Featured creature: Blue Dragon. PBS Nature. Retrieved January 10th, 2020 from 

Photo at top taken by : Sylke Rohrlach at March 3, 2013

Photo was taken at Bronte Beach, Sydney, NSW

Photo at bottom by : Biusch

Photo was taken at Tayrona national park, Colombia,_Tayrona_national_park,_Colombia.jpg

Common name: Mudflat Snails; Spiral Snails; Asian Hornsnail

Authors: Elliot Scott-Bigsby & Sayde Koetke

Scientific name: Batillaria cumingi

Size: Up to 3 cm (1 ¼”) in length

Identifying features: Shells are small, long, and grey-brown with 8 or 9 distinct circles.

Habitat: Found in the mid- to high intertidal zones, including but not limited to salt marshes, mud flats, pannes in estuaries, riparian zones, and wetlands.

Despite their large numbers it is sometimes surprising to find out that Batillaria cumingi is an introduced species originating from Japan and parts of Asia.  In California this species is slowly replacing the native snail Cerithidea californica: the two species currently coexist in the bays in California. They can be found in bays in British Columbia down to California.


Harbo, R. M (1949). Whelks to Whales: Coastal Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest. Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing.

Klinkenberg, Brian. 2017. E-Fauna BC Atlas Page: Electronic Atlas of the Fauna of British Columbia. Retrieved November 9th, 2018 from

Dave Cowles (2009) Batillaria attramentaria (japanese false cerith,  false cerith, zoned cerith, screw shell, tall-spired snails), retrieved november 13, 2019 from:

Purple Olive Snail

Scientific name:   Olivella biplicata

Authors: Cody C. and D. Young

Size:  2cm to 3.5cm (0.8 inch to 1.15inch)

Identifying features:

Purple Olive Snails are very attractive snails that have a smooth shell that appears highly polished.  The colour of the shell varies but is often a blend of grays and purples and pinks and many have longitudinal bands running down the length of the shell.  They often have dark lines at the edge of the whorls at the apex of the shell.


O. biplicata are found on sandy beaches below the high tide line from southern Alaska to northern Mexico. On Vancouver Island they are most commonly encountered by people walking along Long Beach near Tofino. They are carnivorous and plow through the sand while they are scavenging.  Though they are nocturnal they generally remain close to the surface when they burrow and some can found scavenging on the surface in the day time.  Others can be seen either by the tip of their shell or a proboscis extended above the sand.


Kozloff, E. (1993).  Seashore life of the northern Pacific coast:  An illustrated guide to Northern California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.  Seattle, Washington: University of Washington Press

Lamb, A. and Hanby,B.(2005). Marine life of the Pacific Northwest: A photographic encyclopedia of invertebrates, seaweeds and selected fishes. Medeiva Park, BC: Harbour Publishing.

Pacific Geoduck

Author: Zoe Schmit

Common Name: Geoduck

Scientific Name: Panopea genersoa

Photo courtesy of Grant Dovey of the Underwater Harvesters Association and the West Coast Geoduck Research Corporation.

Identifying Features: My friend said it looks like a foot made of cream cheese while others say a skinned yam and then there are those that eat it as a tasty meal. Behold! The most phallic looking bivalve: the Geoduck (Panopea genersoa)!  The Geoduck (Panopea genersoa) is the largest bivalve in the Northern Pacific and Salish Sea areas, and the largest burrowing bivalve in the world. It has a thin shell that can reach up to 8 inches long, which always remains open, due to how large the clam is. The neck or siphons of the the clam can reach up to 1 metre in length. Its weight can also reach up 1.5 kilograms.

Habitat: P. genersoa is found in the intertidal zone of sandy beaches. The intertidal zone is where the ocean meets the land and is covered by water during high tide and is exposed land during low tide.  P. genersoa burrows itself under the sand, sometimes up to 110 metres down. The geoduck is found in Puget Sound, Washington, along the coast of British Columbia and Japan.

Food (prey): Geoducks are filter feeders. They eat mainly plankton. They siphon it in, eat it, and then eject the waste.

Predators: P. genersoa doesn’t have too many predators; the Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris), Spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) and people (Homo sapiens). To avoid these predators the Geoduck simply buries itself deeper in the sand. Humans harvest the Geoduck and serve them as a delicacy.

Life Cycle: P. genersoa can live to be 168 years old. To reproduce, the males spawn and the females produce 7-10 million eggs which are fertilized externally. 48 hours after being born, the shelled larvae begin swimming and eventually settle on the sandy bottom.

Recipe for Geoduck Fritters:


* 1 cup flour
* 1 tsp baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/8 teaspoon pepper
* 1/3 cup clam juice
* 2 eggs, beaten
* 1/3 cup milk
* 2 tsp butter, melted
* 1 geoduck clam, cleaned and diced
* Vegetable oil
* Lemon wedges


  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
    2. Line a baking dish with paper towels and set aside.
    3. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper into a mixing bowl.
    4. Add the clam juice, eggs, and milk and beat thoroughly with a wire whisk. Fold in the butter and geoduck.
    5. Fill a large saucepan or wok halfway with vegetable oil and heat to 375 degrees. Very carefully, drop large spoonfuls of batter into the hot oil and 3 to 4 minutes, turning once, or until the fritters are golden brown on both sides.
    6. Drain on paper towels, then transfer the fritters to the prepared baking sheet and place in the oven to keep warm.
    7. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve immediately.


Andy, L. and Bernard, H. (2005) Marine life of the pacific northwest: A photographic encyclopedia of invertebrates, seaweeds and selected fishes. Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing

Geoduck Recipes Geoduck Recipes. Retrieved January 2, 2017 from

Goodwin, C.L. ; Pease, Bruce (Dec, 1989) Species Profiles, Life Histories and Environmental REquiremetns of Costal Fishes and Invertebreates (Pacific Northwest). Pacific Geoduck Clam Retrieved November 9, 2016 from

Jerry Cahill. Geoduck “Gooey Duck” Clams. Geoduck “Gooey Duck” Clams. Retrieved November 20, 2016 from

Richard E. (2000) Encyclopedia of the sea. New York City, New York: Knopf

Underwater Harvesters Association (2014). Geoduck from Canada. Geoduck from Canada | Underwater Harvesters Association. Retreived November 14, 2016 from

Elysia hedgpethi

Common Names: Hedgpeth’s Sea Hare, Hedgpeth’s Sapsucker

Scientific Name: Elysia hedgepethi

Photos by D. Young, Video by D. Young and Oliver S.

Please visit back soon – more information on this nudibranch will be posted soon.

Ruby Octopus

Author: Claire Troost

Common Names: Ruby Octopus, Pacific Red Octopus, Red Octopus

Scientific Name: Octopus rubescens (Polypus rubescens)

Size Range: to 50cm (20 inch) arm spread

Identifying Features

This species was originally thought to be a juvenile  Enteroctopus dofleini, or Giant Pacific Octopus, but was later proved to be it’s own species. Knowing if what you see is a Ruby Octopus or not can be difficult, due to their ability to drastically change their appearances. This species also has three papillae below the eyes, which appear like eyelashes, a distinguishing feature against the Giant Pacific Octopus.

The mantle length of the Ruby Octopus usually reaches 8-10 cm and the arm length will reach around 30-50 cm. The weight of the adult octopus is commonly 100-400 grams.

The appearance of the this species varies widely, like most other species of octopus. It can change its shape and colour, appearing in reds, browns, whites and mixtures of the three.

Amelia our Ruby Octopus about to be released back into the Pacific Ocean – a coffee pot is a great way to transfer octopus

Identifying Features

This species was originally thought to be a juvenile  Enteroctopus dofleini, or Giant Pacific Octopus, but was later proved to be it’s own species. Knowing if what you see is a Ruby Octopus or not can be difficult, due to their ability to drastically change their appearances. This species also has three papillae below the eyes, which appear like eyelashes, a distinguishing feature against the Giant Pacific Octopus.

The mantle length of the Ruby Octopus usually reaches 8-10 cm and the arm length will reach around 30-50 cm. The weight of the adult octopus is commonly 100-400 grams.

The appearance of the this species varies widely, like most other species of octopus. It can change its shape and colour, appearing in reds, browns, whites and mixtures of the three.

Heading Home


This octopus ranges from Alaska to Mexico and lives in the intertidal zone of up to 300m below the surface.It prefers kelp forests, as well as sandy and rocky areas. It lives in what is known as the benthic zone, which is the bottom of the ocean.


The octopus is a predator in the ocean, and as such has a wide range of food sources. In labs, the species has been seen eating gastropods, bivalves, crabs, barnacles and fish. In the wild, the full diet of the species is not entirely known. They seem to have a diet mainly consisting of gastropods (slugs and snails) and bivalves (clams), as well as fish.

The Ruby Octopus has excellent vision, though it mostly relies on it’s senses of smell. After the Ruby Octopus has captured a bivalve, it can open shells with it’s beak and drill holes in the shell of the prey with its radula (something similar to a tongue that some molluscs have). It then injects venom into the shell to kill the prey and can inject a chemical that separates the flesh from the shell. This is why you must be aware when picking up the Ruby Octopus, as it can bite and it’s venom may lengthen healing time.

After the Ruby Octopus kills its prey, it will keep hunting and collecting more food. It will then take the collected food back to it’s home environment and eat at it’s own pace. The shells of the prey of the Ruby Octopus are usually stacked outside of it’s residence.

It is hypothesized that the Ruby Octopus chooses its prey based on its ability to easily digest it, rather than the calorie content. This would make the Ruby Octopus a specialist predator, rather than a generalist predator.

Intelligence and Behaviour

Intelligence is defined as the skill to learn, acquire and then apply knowledge. The octopus is the smartest of the invertebrates. It has distributed intelligence, only one third of which is in its head, the rest is in its eight arms. The brains of molluscs are clusters of nerve cells throughout their body called ganglia, that serve a purpose. Octopuses have evolved to have a centralized brain. Two areas of their brain is for memory storage, as octopuses have even been known to recognize people. It’s these areas of the brain that are dedicated to learning, but are very different from a human brain.

Octopuses also have the ability to fold together every single one of its suction cups in a pincer grasp that humans use daily with our thumb and fingers. That’s over 100 pincer grasps at once.

They are very intelligent, and adept at solving problems related to their environment. When scientists gave an octopus different species of clams, some even wired shut, the octopus used different techniques to open them, based on their difficulty. It would use energy conserving techniques on less difficult prey.They have also been found to play in a boring situation. An octopus put in an empty tank with a floating bottle eventually became bored and starting siphoning water at the bottle, much like throwing a ball.

Another indication of intelligence is that individual octopuses have been found to have different personalities from each other. This was tested by putting many different octopuses in the same situations, including being given food, being threatened and having them open the tank. Some octopuses were shy and avoiding, some were active and/or passive, some were emotional, and some were combinations of the three.


The predators of an octopus will vary slightly depending on it’s size and location. These can include large fish, whales, birds and even dolphins. Most commonly, the octopus has a camouflage that allows it to go unnoticed.When discovered, an octopus will squirt ink, both causing a distraction and making it hard for the predator to see, to allow the octopus to escape. The ink also has a chemical in it that dulls the predator’s sense of smell. The octopus can also swim very fast, as it siphons water through its mantle. While escaping, it is a helpful feature that the octopus can fit into anything larger than its beak. This is because that is the only solid part of its body. If the octopus really needs to, it can also pull off one of its arms to distract the predator, and regrow it later. The severed arm however, maintains some of the octopus’s distributed intelligence, and will continue to hunt for food and attempt to bring it to a non-existent mouth.

Life Cycle

The mating season for the Ruby Octopus is usually in late August to early September. The male will use visual displays to attract the female. It will then insert the hectocotylus into the cavity of the female’s mantle where fertilization occurs. The female will put the eggs in a safe residence in early winter, where she will stay to guard them, and waft fresh water over them as they grow. The embryos will hatch in a very young stage similar to plankton, as they grow larger. Eventually they will start to live on the bottom of the ocean and become adults.


The behaviour of octopuses is widely varying, possibly a display of the animal’s high level of intelligence. The octopus is the most intelligent of the invertebrates, and individuals have even displayed different personalities. During hunting, the Ruby Octopus will pounce on prey and display sequences of colour changes to distract it.


(1953). Octopus rubescens   Berry, 1953. Retrieved from

Borrell, B. (2009, February 27). Are Octopuses Smart? Retrieved from

Borrell, B. (2009, February 27). Are Octopuses Smart? Retrieved from

East Pacific Red Octopus. (2017, October 13). Retrieved from

Lamb, A., Byers, S. C., Hanby, B. P., & Hawkes, M. W. (2009). Marine life of the Pacific Northwest: A photographic encyclopedia of invertebrates, seaweeds and selected fishes. Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publ.

Meschkat, C., Fretwell, K., Starzomski, B., & Biodiversity of the Central Coast. (2014). Pacific red octopus • Octopus rubescens. Retrieved from

Ocean Networks Canada. (2010, June 21). Ocean Networks Canada. Retrieved from

Octopus Worlds. (n.d.). East Pacific Red Octopus. Retrieved from

Clown Nudibranch

Common Names: Clown Nudibranch

Scientific Name: Triopha catalinae

Size Range:

Clown Nudibranch (Triopha catalinae)

Video by Isobel Austin and D. Young

Please visit back soon – more information on this nudibranch will be posted soon.

Shag Mouse Nudibranch

Author: Breyn Banks

Common Names:  Shag Mouse Nudibranch, Shag Rug Nudibranch,  Shag Nudibranch.

Scientific Name: Aeolida papillosa

Size Range: 10 to 12 cm in length.

Little is known about the Shag Mouse Nudibranch (Aeolida papillosa). They belongs to the group of soft bodied marine gastropods known as the nudibranchs. They range from 10 to 12 cm in size depending on what part of the world they live in and are known by many names such as The Shag Mouse Nudibranch, Shag Rug Nudibranch, or just simply the Shag Nudibranch. They get these names from the shag-esk ceratas running over its body. The certas themselves do not split down the centre or spread apart which is counter to a lot of other shaggy nudibranchs making them easily identifiable if you are looking for them.
The shag rug nudibranch lives in the intertidal zones of the atlantic and pacific ocean. The deep water species which live in the pacific northwest live at depths of 500 meters deep, but some species have been found as deep as 900 meters. They are mainly found in the Circumboreal, the South of France, the South of Maryland, Argentina,  the Falkland Islands, The Sea of Japan, Alaska, and Chile. The shagmouse nudibranch lives in many different habitats and parts of the world.
The shag mouse nudibranchs known diet is very simple. They feed on various sea anemones. The shag mouse nudibranch has a very interesting defence system that goes with its simple diet. When they feed on the various anemones they store the preys stinging cells (cnidocytes) in its cerata for defence.   They also will change colour based on the colour of food they ate much in the way that a flamingo is the same colour of the shrimp it eats.
The specific predators of the shag mouse nudibranch are unknown but if it is similar to other nudibranchs then crabs and sea stars would be among the most likely predators.
The shag mouse nudibranchs reproduces similar to other nudibranchs. They are hermaphroditic, containing gonads that produce both eggs and sperm.  Individuals will transfer sperm and the eggs are laid in a gelatinous spiral.
Johnson, P.M & Willows, A.O.D, (1999) Defense in Sea Hares (Gastropoda, Opisthobranchia, Anaspidea): multiple layers of protection from egg to adult. Marine & Freshwater Behaviour & Physiology, 32: 147-180.
Hildering, J. & Miller, G., 2007 (Jul 10) Cadlina luteomarginata? being eaten by a seastar. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum.Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from  
The Reproductive Systems of the Nudibranchia (Gastropoda, Opisthobranchia): Comparative Histology and Ultrastructure of the Nidamental Glands with Aspects of Functional Morphology

Photographs by D. Young

Zebra Leafslug, Taylor’s Sea Hare

Author: Rubin Cheney

Common name: Zebra Leafslug, Eelgrass Sea hare, Taylor’s Sea Hare

Scientific name: Phyllaplysia taylori

Size range: Up to 8cm (3.2 in) long

Identifying features

The Zebra Leafslug can be identified by its vibrant green and dull white stripes that may be outlined in black that run down the length of its body.  Though it may grow to 8cm in length they are often found much smaller (3 to 4cm).  There are two colour variations, one that is a deep green and another form that is yellow.  They are most easily found along the blades of eelgrass (Zostera marina) in the summer, where they can safely hide from predators and feed.  The sea hares are named for the long tentacles (rhinophores) that make them look like the ears of hares.


The Zebra Leafslug can be found along the Pacific West Coast, from British Columbia to Mexico.  They are most commonly found in the Northern Pacific around B.C. at a depth of around 5.5 meters and are almost exclusively found on eelgrass (Z. marina).


In general Sea slugs can be both carnivorous and scavengers, but the Zebra Leafslug almost solely grazes upon various species of sponges and diatoms that grow on the surface of eelgrass.


Sea hares such as the Zebra Leafslug are hermaphrodites, producing both eggs and sperm.

Photograph by Nicole LaForge


Lamb, Andy and Hanby, Bernard P. 2006. Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest. Harbour Publishing, British Columbia

Rudman, W.B (2005). Retrieved January 21st 2013 from

Common Name:  Sitka Periwinkle

Author:  Bea Wicker

Scientific Name:  Littorina sitkana

Size Range:  Up to 2cm (0.8 inches) long

Identifying Features:  The Sitka Periwinkle generally has a brown or grey shell, which is sometimes striped. They can close themselves inside their shells with a door, called an operculum. They slide around in their own mucus using their muscular foot. They have little eyes, antennae, and a mouth, which is full of tiny razor sharp teeth.

Habitat:  Sitka Periwinkles attach themselves to pilings, mangroves, seaweed, rocky shorelines, and beneath boats and docks using mucus. They are one of the few sea creatures that can breathe air, and when the tide is low, they close themselves up into their shells to prevent drying out.  Despite this ability many end up dying due to drying out especially when exposed to high temperatures. They live on the Pacific Ocean, from Alaska to Baja, and also on the Atlantic coast.

Food:  Sitka Periwinkles are vegetarians. They feed mainly on filamentous algae but also eat films of diatoms, lichens and Rockweek (Fucus gardneri) . They scrape food off of surfaces with a hooked, chainsaw like structure of teeth called a radula. Impressively, they can replace up to seven rows of teeth daily! Most Sitka Periwinkles only eat every 2-3 weeks.

Predators:  Many animals prey on the Sitka snail, such as sea stars, crabs, sea anemones, and various water birds.   One study found the main predators to be the Red Rock Crab (Cancer productus) and the Pile Perch (Rhacochilus vacca). To protect themselves, the snails close themselves into their thick armor like shells.  Many hermit crabs will use the empty shell of the Sitka Periwinkle as their home.

Life Cycle: Once yearly, males seek out mates. Often they can’t tell the difference between females and other males, and sometimes two males can be seen fighting, only to discover that the supposed female is in fact another male.  Once fertilized by the male females lay 50-400 eggs in mucus bundles in tide pools. Once hatched, larvae are washed out to sea to grow. Young periwinkles look like miniature adults.

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