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Me diving

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Adventure No. 12: "The Jaguar Slug"

Rob and I dove at Point Lobos on Sunday. We were originally slated to dive with Kevin, but he wimped out. Well, not really -- he got back Saturday evening from a week of cave diving in Mexico, and I guess even Kevin isn't hard core enough to show up for a dive on Sunday after that. Anyhoo, so it was just the two of us. We wanted to go out to the Road to shoot macro. I wanted to stay shallower so we could spend more time there, and search for the jaguar slug (our mystery white dorid, which we have seen twice before out there). We actually got to Lobos a little after 9, because I was being a sleepyhead, and stayed in bed a half hour after the alarm went off. We also rendezvous'd at Monastery with Jonathan, so I could borrow a spare Argon bottle.

But once we were there, we got geared up and in the water pretty quickly. Our plan was to scooter out to the Road, and to pick a spot in about 130' to stay at for the rest of the dive. We agreed to set aside a few minutes at the end so we could get some pictures of the baby rockfish just north of the sisters on the way in. It was a low low tide day. Rob went bounding down the ramp and was in the water before I was halfway down. Then I had to climb around some other divers loitering at the bottom of the ramp. After getting around them, I demonstrated a beautiful fall on your knees and push yourself out like a half-beached whale entry. We scooted out on the surface to a bit past the worm patch, and we descended in the sand channel. The viz was not so hot right when we dropped, and it was quite green. However, as we got out along the sand channel, it quickly got bluer and clearer. We cut to the northwest after Hole in the Wall, slaloming the kelp stalks in the little kelp patch next to it. We got to the Lone Metridium and I circled it with my light and then we headed out toward the sisters. Eventually I saw to my right a little reef that I have noticed before, which is just to the southeast of the second sister, and has some nice bushy stalks of hydrocoral. I swung over to it and pointed the hydrocoral out to Rob. He says this is the first sister, but I really don't know -- everytime someone takes me to the "first sister" it seems to be something different. Anyway, it has nice hydrocoral. I then headed to the left and we very quickly hit the second sister. From Lone Metridium to the Sisters, the viz was quite good (at least 40 feet) and the water quite blue.

From there, I headed out along the Road, riding the reef-sand interface on the east side. The water was a bit murkier along the road. We paused right after we left the sisters to look at the baby rockfish that hang out at the bottom there. After a couple minutes, I found a nice sluggy looking spot in about 130', so I paused to look around and then headed over to another patch of reef I could see from there, thinking it would be a good place to clip off and we could swim between these two areas. As I was surveying the other spot, Rob signaled to me and showed me a patch with a bunch of Dendronotus albus. So I signaled to clip off and hang out here. Right near the D. albus patch, I also found a juvenile rockfish, and pointed it out to Rob. While he was taking pictures of the fish and the D. albus, I swam over to another spot on the same rock, and started looking next to a little vertical crack. Sitting out on the rock, not really camouflaged at all, I found a small white nudibranch that wasn't at all familiar looking to me. It was a spunky slug, that remind me of a small, white Hopkins' rose, but with not nearly such dense cerata. It was less than a centimeter in diameter. I excitedly pointed it out to Rob, and left him to take some pictures. On the top surface of that rock, not far from that crack, I also found a Doriopsilla spaldingi, and pointed it out to Rob.

And so the dive progressed in a similar fashion -- by the time Rob was finished photographing something, I had a stack of other things to show him. It was a very sluggy day -- there were lots of Spanish shawls (I stopped counting after six), tons of Berthellas, and also some Festive Tritons and a few more D. albus. Also there were plenty of the other standard slugs. I actually spent most of the dive swimming from white splotch to white splotch, inspecting anything that could possibly be the "jaguar slug". Most of these were Berthellas (in all different sizes -- I saw many smaller than usual ones), plus there were the Cadlinas. I saw the tiniest luteomarginata I have seen, curled around a bryozoan. I saw a few Cadlina flavomaculatas, including one bigger than usual one (about twice as big as the ones I usually see). After a brief absence, they seem to be pretty prevalent once again. At some point, Rob signaled me and I came over and he pointed out a Hopkins' rose. I couldn't believe I hadn't seen it! I was sure I had been past that exact spot, and it's not like they are at all camouflaged!

Anyhoo, I was sort of working my way up the rock pile we were on, and at minute 32 (of a planned 35 minutes), I happened upon another white splotch on the reef. And it was the jaguar slug! It's funny, I have been looking at the one picture Rob got last time we saw one for a couple of weeks, and every time I look at it, I think that it looks more opaque than I remember it. When I found this one, it didn't look exactly like I remember it, but it looked exactly like the picture :) I very excitedly brought Rob over and he took several pictures of it from the top. I then suggested he take a picture with some size reference, so I put a boltsnap next to it, and realized just how small it was. After getting pictures from several angles on the top, Rob flipped it over to get some pictures of the undercarriage (as we had been instructed to by "the experts"). I just knew we would find one right as it was time to leave -- we had plenty of time for the pictures, but the juvey rockfish would have to wait for another day.

We headed in once we were finished, and passed Mark and Dionna right where the Road meets the Sisters. I think I got us slightly lost on the way in from there... we ended up (I think) more east than south, compared to the path we usually take. But when I found 70 feet of water, we stopped and switched to our bottles. Then Rob took over, since he was going to lead deco. We had planned to cross over to Middle Reef at the end of it, and follow the east side in. That didn't exactly happen as planned... as we were weaving through the kelp, we ended up going in the wrong direction on Middle Reef, and when I asked Rob where the heck we were going, he decided to bailout to the sand channel and just follow that in the rest of the way. So we ended up deco'ing on the worm patch after all. I would still like to try the east side path again some other time. We decided to pass the time by practicing a team bag shoot (inflating the bag off of an inflator hose), which was very easy and way faster than blowing it up with your mouth. When we hit the surface, I said to Rob that we had seen everything there is to see except for a simnia snail, and he fessed up to finding one and not showing it to me :( We scootered back in on the surface, and I was going to stay in the water and hand stuff up to Rob on the ramp. Then Jonathan appeared (he and Matt came over to Lobos to rinse gear after diving at South Monastery) and took our stuff for us. Then as I was flailing around at the end of the ramp, he pointed out a nice little sequence of rock steps for me to walk up. After making it up successfully, I managed to fall and make a fool of myself. We'll just leave it at that :P Thanks to Rob and Jonathan for picking me up off the ramp :) 136 feet, 79 minutes, 46 degrees

We were quite excited to have found another jaguar slug, and to get more pictures so we could hopefully get a final determination on the species. Based on the picture from the last one, the going theory had been Aldisa albomarginata. However, on Saturday, Clinton told me that someone else had chimed in saying she wasn't convinced it was that. It would be a significant range extension for it -- it is only documented around British Columbia. We were also curious to look through the books to figure out what the spunky white slug was. After looking through the books, it didn't really look like anything in there, but I thought it resembled (shape-wise) some Okenia species. I looked through the Sea Slug Forum at other Okenia species, but still couldn't find anything that really fit.

After sending the pictures around to the "slug experts", the consensus seems to be that the "jaguar slug" is in fact an Aldisa albomarginata. The spunky white guy has stumped everyone however, and the current theory is that it may be a new species of Okenia. Sweet!

P.S. For those of you who haven't gotten the reference, the nickname "jaguar slug" is a reference to our favorite dive movie, The Life Aquatic.

All of the day's pictures are here.

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