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Melibe colemani

Species Profile

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Melibe colemani

Author: Gosliner & Pola, 2012

Order: Nudibranchia  Family: Tethydidae

Maximum Size: 50 mm

Sightings: Anilao, Philippines


Melibe colemani Gosliner & Pola, 2012

This species has developed cult status due to a set of iconic images composed and taken by its discoverer, the late Neville Coleman in 2004, at Mabul Island, Northern Borneo, Malaysia.

A medium sized Melibe reaching up to 50 mm in length.

The animal is almost entirely transparent apart from the cream-white internal digestive glands situated in the cerata and additionally ramifying throughout most of the body. This gives it the iconic appearance of a string bag when under appropriate lighting. The dorsum is smooth apart from scattered long papillae on the body and cerata. It possesses an oral hood that can be thrown over the substrate for feeding purposes, as with all Melibe, but it is relatively small in comparison and only has a single row of thin papillae ventrally around the margin. Dorsally the hood bears a number of larger papillae.

Rhinophores are well-separated and sited on the posterior of the hood each comprising a small club of 3-4 lateral lamellae and situated atop a long thin cylindrical sheath. A single long papilla arises posteriorly at the sheath apex. There are 4-5 cerata each side, positioned close to the midline that are easily autotomised at their base. The cerata are laterally flattened in shape rather than cylindrical. Each ceras bears 5-6 conical papillae on the lateral margin and a further 4-6, or more, on the distal edge that are completely filled by the digestive gland.

Melibe colemani hunts crustaceans and small molluscs using its oral hood to trap and ingest. As with all Melibe it lacks a radula but possesses a pair of fine jaws. The stomach contains 18 round chitinous plates for reduction of ingested prey.

Known from the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.

It is the Melibe sp. (Coleman’s Melibe) of Coleman, 2008 pages 389-390.


Above: Feeding by Melibe colemani using its oral veil to trap crustaceans. (Video by Terry Farr – Anilao, Philippines)

David A. Mullins – February 2024

– Gosliner, T. M. & Smith, V. (2003). Systematic review and phylogenetic analysis of the nudibranch genus Melibe (Opisthobranchia: Dendronotacea) with descriptions of three new species. Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences 54, 302–355.

– Coleman, N. (2008). Nudibranchs – Encyclopedia – Catalogue of Asia/Indo-Pacific Sea Slugs. Neville Coleman’s Underwater Geographic Pty Ltd.

– Gosliner, T. M. & Pola, M. (2012). Diversification of filter-feeding nudibranchs: two remarkable new species of Melibe (Opisthobranchia: Tethyiidae) from the tropical western Pacific. Systematics and Biodiversity, 10(3): 333–349.

– Gosliner, T. M., Valde ́s, A ́. & Behrens, D. W. (2018). Nudibranch & Sea Slug Identification – Indo-Pacific, 2nd Edition. New World Publications, Jacksonville, Florida, USA.

Other Sea Slugs in this Family (sighted)

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