Order : NUDIBRANCHIA
Suborder : CLADOBRANCHIA
Superfamily : Aeolidioidea
Family : Facelinidae
Genus : Pteraeolidia
Species : Pteraeolidia sp.
Throughout the tropical and subtropical Indo-West Pacific.
Research has to be done to determine the different species of Ptereaolidia as they resemble each other very much.
Pteraeolidia sp., commonly known as the ‘Blue Dragon’ by divers is one of a group of remarkable aeolid nudibranchs which are way ahead of man in harnessing solar energy. Pteraeolidia has evolved a method of capturing and farming microscopic plants (zooxanthellae) in its own body. The plants flourish in this protected environment and as they convert the sun’s energy into sugars, they pass a significant proportion on to the nudibranch for its own use. The white animal is a juvenile which as not yet developed its crop of zooxanthellae. If this species is similar to others that have been studied then it must obtain its first “injection” of zooxanthellae by feeding on a hydroid with symbiotic zooxanthellae. White juveniles are usually found in lush growths of short “turfing” hydroids, but until now no sign of zooxanthellae has been found in the hydroids. Adults can last some time without feeding, presumably obtaining sufficient nourishment from their zooxanthellae gardens. The large solitary hydroid is the preferred adult food.