However the deep blue slug with the bright gold spots reappeared in 2003 off Santa Catalina Island, and in 2011 the rare and highly sought animal was again spotted off Santa Cruz Island and off the coast of San Diego.
"Since the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, big strides have been made in reducing pollutants in the Southern California Bight, especially from large wastewater outfalls, and these improvements may have allowed Felimare californiensis to regain a foothold in the region," said Goddard.
The current population status of F. californiensis in Southern California remains tenuous, but Goddard is encouraged by its persistence at Catalina in marine protected areas, including the popular, no-take Casino Point State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA) and the recently established Blue Cavern SMCA.
He and the paper's co-authors, biology professor ngel Valds from Cal Poly Pomona; CSU Northridge student researcher Craig Hoover; and visiting colleague and sea slug expert Maria Schaefer plan to continue to monitor the population at Catalina, examine changes in genetic variation in the nudibranch since its decline, and study the distribution and abundance of its sponge prey.
Goddard is also collaborating with Mike Miller, webmaster of the popular Slug Site, on a video about the disappearance of F. californiensis for the 2013 San Diego Undersea Film Festival.
|Contact: Sonia Fernandez|
University of California - Santa Barbara