Clione limacina (Phipps, 1774) : Sea Angel
Phylum Mollusca / Class Gastropoda / Subclass Opisthobranchia / Order Gymnosomata / Family Clionidae

Few gelatinous animals would be regarded as “cute”, but perhaps this shell-less pteropod comes close. Clione is quite agile, using a pair of wide, muscular wings that are narrowly attached in the anterior half of the body. The posterior half is relatively transparent; the orange-pigmented viscera are confined in the anterior. The “head” is marked by a pair of distinctive antennae. Three pairs of feeding structures known as buccal cones, which are normally retracted, are visible inside the head. Clione feeds almost exclusively on the small thecosome pteropod, Limacina. Aggregations of Limacina usually include a few Clione actively in search of a meal. When Clione are feeding in dense prey aggregations, the gut of most individuals has a dark appearance. If you observe a sea angel in the midst of its prey, you may see a few swimming with their buccal cones extended. Three pairs are used for grasping Limacina, after which chitinous hooks and the radula extract the prey for ingestion. Mating individuals unite ventrally for reciprocal fertilization (second photo). The result is the release of a spherical gelatinous mass containing the eggs. Clione inhabits temperate and cold waters of all oceans. It is not commonly seen in surface waters of Monterey Bay, but when Limacina are present, may be very abundant. West Coast individuals typically are no more than 3 cm in length; individuals in northern populations may reach up to 8 cm.

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