I’ve made a lot of progress on the development of my research project since last week! More specifically, I’ve decided that I absolutely must focus my research on a stunningly beautiful marine organisms, nudibranchs/sea slugs. Which, continue to amaze me with each passing day.
Before arriving to OIMB, I knew that they were often colorful, soft bodied, slow moving, and unbelievably gorgeous marine organisms in the phylum Mollusca. With the help of a number of OIMB faculty, many identification books, and several scientific papers, my understanding of nudibranchs has expanded immensely.
Interestingly enough there is a bridge between the project idea I shared from last week and my new project. It was by observing two species of nudibranchs in a tank full of starved juvenile crabs that my new interest arose.
Alan has placed great emphasis on the power of simply exploring and observation, rather than trying to begin by forcefully think something to death. Being in Alans’ lab has already proved to be a good learning experience for me. Simply from watching organisms in their natural habitat or even in the tanks in the lab, I’ve found that coming with questions comes rather naturally.
Nudibranchs are in the phylum Mollusca, which generally have shells. Snails, Octopuses and clams are three examples of the many organisms in this phylum. Most nudibranchs have dorsal outgrowths called cerata, and some nudibranchs have the ability to sequester stinging cells called cnidocytes from their cnidarian prey, and shunt the immature cnidocytes to the ends of their cerata where they can be used as a defensive tactic to deter their predators. This known fact absolutely blew my mind! Its just one example of the diversity and creativity in nature.
For the nudibranchs that are able to sequester stinging cells from their prey, how essential is this defensive adaptation to the individual and would the lack of the those cells risk them their lives? Or will their other defensive adaptations be sufficient enough to fight off predators?
The last couple of days I’ve been playing around with container sizes and materials in order to separate each nudibranch I’ve collected into their own secluded container. By next week I hope to confirm their food items, and begin looking at each of their cerata under a compound microscope so that I can more easily identify the density of the cnidocytes, as well as an idea of the amount of cnidocytes that they are able to sequester from a controlled portion of food.
Many people will say that the best way to learn a new language is to immerse yourself into a community where that language is spoken. I’ve been at OIMB less than a week and already the amount of ideas, techniques, and information I’ve absorbed has exceeded my expectations, as though I am learning a new language to better grasp and comprehend science.