Sea Lemons and Eggs

Last week I took advantage of the lowish low tide (it was around a 2.3 foot tide) to make my way out to Schooner Cove in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Schooner Cove on a good low tide is excellent for intertidal life. This past week’s low was borderline, low enough that it was possible to make it around to the front of the two islands that are closest to the shore but not low enough to enable a leisurely exploration of the rocky areas that are covered with life.

My destination was the far island on this hike. I usually focus on island that is the first one encountered when entering the bay but on a previous visit I had checked out the second island and thought that it was well worth a closer look. The south side of this island (which is what one sees when entering the cove) is unremarkable. The north side is very interesting. Wave action has carved a series of narrow channels through the rocks making access to walls of marine life very easy. The bonus is that it is possible to explore these channels without stepping on organisms since the bottoms are covered with hard packed sand. One must be extremely cautious of what the tide is doing and the condition of the surf since these surge channels can also concentrate water movement so that waves move quickly up them.

Monterey Sea Lemons (Doris monteryensis)
A trio of Monterey Sea Lemons (Doris monteryensis) sit next to their ribbon like egg masses.

Since the low was mediocre and the tide was turning I didn’t have a great deal of time. Among the many different forms of life living in these channels, a pair of Sea Lemons caught my eye. They were stuck tightly on the rock wall next to their ribbon-like egg mass. Sea Lemons do look a little like lemons – they are yellow and have a knobbly texture and are about the size of a large lemon.

I’m not 100% sure on the identity of these Sea Lemons. There are two very similar looking possibilities: Noble Sea Lemon (Peltodoris nobilis – also know as Anisodoris nobilis) and Monterey Sea Lemon (Doris monteryensis – also known as Archidoris monteryensis). According to the Sea Slug forum, the former has a white frill around the edge of the ring of gills at the back of the animals, while the latter’s gill colour matches the colour of the body of the animal. Looking at the picture, I think that the gills are more yellowish than white, suggesting that these are Doris monteryensis.

I didn’t have enough time to examine these beautiful dorids for long. The tide was on its way in and I managed to take only a couple of photographs before I felt it wasn’t safe to continue. In examining the photograph while processing it with Photoshop I realized that there actually appears to be three nudibranchs in the image – can you see all three?

For more photographs of British Columbia nudibranchs check out the Island Nature article “Madrona Point Nudibranchs” by Lisa Graham.