CORAL Mystery Species Answers
16 Feb, 2019
From the January’February 2020 Issue of CORAL Magazine: An amazing example of marine mimicry, this remarkable sea slug has evolved to appear as a perfect match for Xenia sp. soft coral. This species grows to about 4.5 cm (1.8 inches), and aquarists may find it hitchhiking into their reefscapes on imported colonies of Xenia. Sea slugs have a paired set of antenna-like sense organs called rhinophores, which can be spotted in this image upon careful inspection.
Read a good account in the always informative Sea Slug Forum, which says: “This solar-powered aeolid is a remarkable mimic of the Xenia colonies on which it feeds, often nestling in cavities it has burrowed out in the base of the colony.”
Leptastrea is a genus of encrusting reefbuilding stony corals from the Indo-Pacific. Previously assigned to the family Faviidae, it has been moved to uncertain status, Scleractinia incertae sedis, based on DNA testing.
Writing in CORAL Magazine, Advanced Aquatics, March/April 2019, researcher Samuel Nietzer says:
“Leptastrea purpurea has an extensive distribution and can be found from the reefs of the western Indian Ocean to the Indo-Pacific Coral Triangle to the Hawaiian Islands.
“The most astonishing and unique feature of L. purpurea is not, however, its apparent adaptability but its reproductive strategy: so-called brooding, in which parent colonies harbor their growing progeny before releasing them. The extraordinary thing about the reproduction in this species isn’t, however, the strategy, but the daily release of larvae. This circumstance makes L. purpurea a particularly suitable species for performing experiments with planula larvae.”
Image by May Fox. Courtesy Jason Fox Signature Corals