Discovery of Melanochlamys Droupadi: A New Head-Shield Sea Slug                      

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March 1, 2024

Discovery of Melanochlamys Droupadi: A New Head-Shield Sea Slug                      

In a recent study, researchers from the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) have unveiled the presence of a novel species of head-shield sea slug, named ‘Melanochlamys Droupadi’, along the coastal regions of Odisha and West Bengal.

Characteristics of Melanochlamys Droupadi:

This newly discovered marine species of head-shield sea slug exhibits distinct features, notably adorned with a striking ruby red spot. Identified within the Melanochlamys genus, the species was encountered in Digha along the West Bengal coast and Udaipur along the Odisha coast. Some key attributes include:

  • Size: The species is characterized by its diminutive size, reaching a maximum length of up to 7 mm.
  • Habitat: It predominantly occupies wet and soft sandy beaches as its habitat of choice.
  • Appearance: Sporting a brownish-black hue, the sea slug is adorned with a prominent ruby red spot at its hind end.
  • Reproduction: Melanochlamys Droupadi exhibits hermaphroditic traits, possessing both male and female reproductive organs. However, it requires the presence of another sea slug for successful reproduction.
  • Unique Adaptations: Noteworthy adaptations include the presence of a shell within its body and a posterior segment constituting 61 percent of its overall body length. Additionally, the species continually secretes transparent mucus to form a protective sheath, preventing sand grains from infiltrating its parapodial space.
  • Movement: The sea slug demonstrates distinctive locomotion patterns, often burrowing beneath smooth sand to form a mobile capsule. Its body remains largely concealed during movement, akin to the trail left behind by a turtle.

Insight into Sea Slugs:

Sea slugs, a diverse group of molluscs, primarily inhabit marine environments and exhibit slug-like characteristics. They boast a wide distribution, spanning from shallow intertidal zones to the depths of the ocean, and from polar regions to tropical waters. Key aspects of sea slugs include:

  • Feeding Habits: Sea slugs are known as swift hunters, preying on mobile organisms such as other shelled and unshelled sea slugs, roundworms, marine worms, and small fishes.
  • Global Presence: While approximately 18 species of sea slugs have been identified worldwide, they are predominantly found in the temperate regions of the Indo-Pacific Oceanic realm. Notably, three species, including Melanochlamys papillata and Melanochlamys bengalensis, exhibit truly tropical distributions.

In essence, the discovery of Melanochlamys Droupadi enriches our understanding of marine biodiversity, shedding light on the fascinating world of sea slugs and their intricate ecological roles.

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Discovery of Melanochlamys Droupadi: A New Head-Shield Sea Slug | Vaid ICS Institute