Postcard from the Reef – Reef Rose

With the appearance, size and color of a rose, the moniker Reef Rose seems to fit. In reality these are the eggs of a large nudibranch, the Spanish dancer. Not at all hard to spot, I had been finding these for years before actually seeing the parent.

I always make a point to check the egg mass closely. There is another nudibranch, a tiny parasitic nudibranch that eats the eggs of the Spanish dancer, a species unsurprisingly called the egg-eating nudibranch.

The eggs of a Spanish Dancer nudibranch (Hexabranchus sanguineus) at Three Tables, Oahu

Postcard from the Reef – Spanish Dancer

What is that? That is too big to be a nudibranch, but that is what it looked like. I could only see part of the beast looking into the cave crevice. Fortunately it turned out to be somewhat photophobic, the bright light flushed it out of the crevice into the cave…

Spanish Dancer
Spanish Dancer (Hexabranchus sanguineus)
A Spanish Dancer!

I make a point to look for nudibranchs, pretty critters that are wonderfully photogenic. Looking into the nooks and crannies of the reef for nudibranchs also tends to turn up other tiny surprises.

This was not small!

While the typical nudibranch is one or two inches long, this fellow was the size of a dinnerplate! Adding to the wonder was the dance. As soon as the animal left the crevice it swam across the cave. I flashed Mark to get his attention, he was ready to leave the cave. I suspect he is glad he came back. Deb also wondered what we were still doing in the cave and came in to check on us. Thus we all got a good look at the dance.

After a few photos… OK, a lot of photos, I shepherded the fellow back into his crevice. Once I withdrew the light he settled down to stay in the darkness.

Spanish Dancer
Spanish Dancer (Hexabranchus sanguineus) swimming in a cave at the Dotti’s Reef dive site north of Honokohau