La Jolla Shores is well known to most San Diego divers. Many local divers received their scuba certification there, including myself. Some divers after being certified at “The Shores” swear they will never dive there again! Many comments from new divers are, “There’s nothing but sand!” Veteran “Shores” divers know better. There is a great deal of marine life in the area and all one needs to do most of the time is slow down and keep their eye’s peeled. This is not to say that you will see unusual critters every dive, but you just never know what will turn up.
At times divers will hear through the grapevine that a certain creature or creatures have been spotted. Many divers will then begin a quest to find them, just for the experience or to get a chance to photograph them. It could be a “Squid Run” which may or may not be a large event. At other times it could be various invertebrates or other unusual animals showing up in large numbers.
This time I started hearing about a “Lion Invasion.” To the uninformed. the thought of lions roaming La Jolla Shores may sound like a fantasy or nightmare! What the reality is that in this case the lions are a nickname given to a type of nudibranch (sea slug) called Melobe leonina which when feeding gives the impression of a roaring lion with its mane!
After getting directions to the location of the Melobes from some of my diving friends, who are more than willing to share the information with me, I start my dive. Within a few minutes after descending, I come across the prize–wow! I also come to realize that while my camera is equipped with my trusty 60 mm lens, which is a great lens to capture nudibranchs, this is an entirely different situation. There are hundreds of these creatures clinging to a very sparse group of kelp plants. Now I wish I had my wide-angle lens to be able to capture the scope of what I’m seeing, so the next dive I bring it along. There are fairly large ones (for nudibranchs) and small ones mixed in, some alone, and some so crowded together that you couldn’t tell them apart.
It’s fun to watch them flair out their hoods and the collapse them to trap food. Looking around you can see their eggs, small strands that look like ribbons. You might also see other small invertebrates among them, along with different small fish. What a great experience and like they say “La Jolla Shores, nothing but sand”!