Friday, 28 June 2013

Taxon of the Day: Mandelia mirocornata

Mandelia mirocornata (head view)

Taxon of the Day returns to Mollusca to pay tribute to one of the greatest peacemakers of our time. Mandela's nudibranch or Mandelia mirocornata Valdés & Gosliner, 1999 is a species of  sea slug in the monotypic family Mandeliidae. The family was named in honour of Mandela by the marine biologists, Angel Vlades and Terry Gosliner who discovered it. The species is so far thought to be endemic to South Africa as it has only been found around the southern African coast from the Cape Peninsula to Port Elizabeth.

Mandela mirocornata as the common names suggests is part of the order Nudibranchia, a large group of soft-bodied, marine gastropod molluscs referred to commonly as nudibranchs. Nudibranchs are then divided into further sub-groups, one being the dorid nudibranch, of which this species belongs. Dorid nudibranch are recognised in part by the plume-like gills surrounding the anus on the upper side of the body.

This species has an oval, white to brown-coloured body with its upper side covered in rounded nodules and large black spots with white edges.  Whereas younger specimens are uniformly white. The gills and rhinophores (nose type things you can see in the top picture) are large with the later being orange with a white top.   The anus is central to the dorsal side (see picture below) and is surrounded by the aforementioned plume-like gills. The species can be up to 7cm in length and reportedly feed on spongesHowever, like some other nudibranchs but not all, the Mandelia has no tongue (referred to as the radular in gastropods) and as a result these animals have adapted anatomically to sucking as a feeding mechanism for consuming the sponges.

Mandelia mirocornata (dorsal view)

The etymology of nudibranch is from the Latin nudus, naked, and the Greek brankhia meaning gills. The specific epithet is taken from the Latin word mirus (meaning odd) and cornus (meaning horn), in reference to the shape of the rhinophores of this species.

Taxon of the Day likes the symbolic act of naming a family with light and dark colouring after the person that led the struggle for a multi-racial South Africa.

"For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others." Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

CoL Annual Checklist: Mandelia mirocornata
CoL contributor: World Marine Mollusca database
Image copyright: Seascapeza (both) 

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