Chelidonura punctata from Madagascar

November 16, 2009
From: Eric van Poppel

Could someone identify this nudibranch?

Locality: Nose Be, 12 meters, Madagascar, Indian Ocean, 20 September 2008, On reef. Length: 3-4 cm. Photographer: Eric van Poppel.

Eric van Poppel

van Poppel, 2009 (Nov 16) Chelidonura punctata from Madagascar. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

Dear Eric,

This is Chelidonura punctata. It is not a nudibranch, but belongs to a related group of sea slugs called cephalaspidians or Bubble Shells because many of the group have external, bubble-shaped, shells. Until quite recently we had no idea what species of Chelidonura ate, and because they were often found and photographed on large coral colonies - like in your photo - authors of many colour picture books wrote that they fed on coral mucus! We now know they feed on small flatworms, and the most likely reason they are found on large corals, is because small flatworms occur there as well.

Species of Chelidonura, and other members of the family Aglajidae, have unique sensory bristles arranged in clusters around their mouth - which apparently are used to sense the chemical trails of flatworms. I have included a closeup alongside to show 3 of these clusters as whitish patches on the front of the head. You can see them more clearly in some wonderful photos of C. flavolobata in message #16039.

Best wishes,
Bill Rudman

Rudman, W.B., 2009 (Nov 16). Comment on Chelidonura punctata from Madagascar by Eric van Poppel. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

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