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The species has a number of specialized adaptations that allow it to engage in a surprisingly aggressive behavior: preying on creatures much bigger than itself. The blue dragon, typically just an inch long, frequently feeds on Portuguese man o’ wars, which have tentacles that average 30 feet. A gas-filled sac in the stomach allows the small slug to float, and a muscular foot structure is used to cling to the surface. Then, if it floats by a man o’ war or other cnidarian, the blue dragon locks onto the larger creature’s tentacles and consumes the toxic nematocyst cells that the man o’ war uses to immobilize fish.
The slug is immune to the toxins and collects them in special sacs within the cerata—the finger-like branches at the end of its appendages—to deploy later on. Because the man o’ war’s venom is concentrated in the tiny fingers, blue dragons can actually have more powerful stings than the much larger creatures from which they took the poisons. So, if you float by a blue dragon sometime soon: look, but don’t touch.
Some successful toxins induce bradycardia or hypotension in a predator, allowing the nudibranch to escape consumption while its attacker is incapacitated.
Some sponge-eating nudibranchs concentrate the toxins from their prey sponge in their bodies, rendering themselves toxic to predators.
The evidence that suggests the toxins used by dorid nudibranchs do in fact come from dietary sponges lies in the similarities between the primary and secondary metabolites of prey and nudibranchs, respectively. Furthermore, nudibranchs contain a mixture of sponge chemicals when they are in the presence of multiple food sources as well as change defense chemicals with a concurrent change in diet.
This, however, is not the only way for nudibranchs to develop chemical defenses. Certain species are able to produce their own chemicals de novo without dietary influence.
Evidence for the different methods of chemical production comes with the characteristic uniformity of chemical composition across drastically different environments and geographic locations found throughout de novo production species compared to the wide variety of dietary and environmentally dependent chemical composition in sequestering species.
Another method of protection is the release of an acid from the skin. Once the specimen is physically irritated or touched by another creature, it will release the mucus automatically.