Northeastern Atlantic Dendrodoris species

May 29, 2000
From: Ángel Valdés

Dear Bill,

As far as we know there are only three species of Dendrodoris in the Northeastern Atlantic. I would not recommend to identify species based solely on the external morphology, but there are several characteristics that can give us a few clues.

UPPER RIGHT: Dendrodoris limbata (Cuvier, 1804) is endemic to the Mediterranean Sea. It is characterized by having a narrow mantle margin and a yellow (or whitish) line around the mantle edge. Some specimens are spotted and some are completely black, but all of them have the yellow line I mentioned. PHOTO: Conxita Avila.

LOWER LEFT: Dendrodoris grandiflora (Rapp, 1827) lives in the Mediterranean Sea and Northeastern Atlantic, from Northern Portugal to the Canary Islands. It is in general a dark, reddish, yellowish, greenish or brownish species with dark spots on the dorsum. In general it has dark striations on the mantle margin. It never has a yellow line on the mantle edge. PHOTO: Conxita Avila.

LOWER RIGHT: Dendrodoris herytra Valdés & Ortea, 1996 appears to be absent from the Mediterranean Sea, but it is the most widespread species in the Northeastern Atlantic. It lives from the coast of France to Canary Islands, Madeira and Azores. It is characterized by having a very small gill, and in general it is a red or reddish species. Some specimens can be greenish with dark spots, but the branchial leaves are always very short. PHOTO: Angel Valdes.

Juveniles of all Atlantic species of Dendrodoris, except D. limbata are uniformly red. I suspect specimens keep changing colors during their whole life, depending on what they eat. However, it is common to find under the same rock specimens of the same species with very different colorations.

The reproductive system, and especially the penial hooks are clearly different between these three species. As most of the visitors of the Sea Slug Forum know, species of Dendrodoris do not have a radula, and that makes the taxonomy of this group much more difficult.

I hope this will help.


Valdes, A., 2000 (May 29) Northeastern Atlantic Dendrodoris species. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

Dear Ángel,
Thanks for this. I am sure it will be of great help. It is interesting that the juveniles of so many Atlantic species are red, like the Indo-West Pacific species D. fumata and D. nigra.

Best wishes,
Bill Rudman.

Rudman, W.B., 2000 (May 29). Comment on Northeastern Atlantic Dendrodoris species by Ángel Valdés. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

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