Carinaria japonica Okutani, 1955 : Heteropod
Phylum Mollusca / Class Gastropoda / Subclass Prosobranchia / Order Mesogastropoda / Family Carinariidae
Heteropod, Carinaria cristata, Monterey CA, Pacific Ocean

Few gelatinous animals can match the strangeness of this pelagic gastropod. Sporting a muscular ventral fin, it swims upside down in search of planktonic prey such as salps, doliolids, copepods, euphausids and chaetognaths. The conspicuous terminal mouth houses a radula used for feeding (second photo). With its developed eyes, Carinaria actively swims while hunting gelatinous fare. Escape or changes in direction are accomplished with rapid flexion of the body. A thin, laterally compressed conical remnant of the gastropod shell covers the visceral mass. The body is mostly transparent with some red or bluish pigmentation along the fin margins. Tubercles decorate the surface of the body in larger individuals, which may reach astounding lengths approaching 50 cm, although no more than about 13 cm is typical. This species is the only carinariid found off Central and Southern California.

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