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Meet the Hawaiian Spanish Dancer!

She is eight inches long and so beautiful that seeing her in action is a very special treat for divers visiting our Hawaiian coral reefs.

This amazing creatures is a sea slug that has gills for breathing that are outside of her body. That is why she is called a nudibranch which means “nude gills.” Most sea creatures have their gill inside of their body.

The Spanish Dancer nudibranch does not have a Hawaiian name because without a mask and snorkel 1,000 years ago, no one ever saw her.

She crawls along the coral reef eating sponges and she has bright red colors because she does not taste very good to predators. But what is so amazing about this creature is when she gets disturbed or wants to mate she swims through the sea water and undulates in an amazing dance that gave her the name Spanish Dancer!

Why does this bright red creature do this stunning dance in the middle of the open ocean? I am not sure so maybe we need to ask her!

Along with her bright red colors she also has bright red eggs! I have divers all the time ask me what the red flowers are on the reef that look like a rose. They are the Spanish Dancers eggs that are as colorful as the female that laid them!

You can see the Spanish Dancer in action in my new movie The Worlds Guide to Hawaiian Reef Creatures up on my underwater educational web at and also follow daily marine life Instagram post at terry.lilley

Aloha from under the waves,


Terry Lilley, Marine Biologist, Hanalei,,, all photographs © 2016 Terry Lilly
Source: The Garden Island

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