Dermatobranchus ornatus from Oman

March 30, 2007
From: Brian Mayes

Dear Bill,

Would you be interested in these photos of Dermatobranchus ornatus from Oman. Despite it's size I nearly went right by it, since it looked like a piece of soft coral. There could some clues here as to what it feeds on.

Locality: "Wall Street", Bandar Khairan, Muscat, 21 metres, Oman, Gulf of Oman, 04 March 2007, Silty reef with soft corals. Length: 60mm. Photographer: Brian Mayes.

Best Regards
Brian Mayes

Mayes, B.R., 2007 (Mar 30) Dermatobranchus ornatus from Oman. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

Dear Brian,
This animal certainly resembles a colony of some soft coral. I was quite startled to see the ophiuroid [brittle star] in its mouth, because species of Dermatobranchus normally feed on alcyonacean soft corals. However when I looked at the soft coral in your photos I saw that many of the colonies had the same species of brittle star entangled around the softcoral stalks. This is probably a species of the brittle star genus Ophiothrix, which has a number of species like this with banded arms, and they are often found in association with soft corals. Soft corals are very difficult to indentify just from photos, but I would say this one is the food of your Dermatobranchus - I would say the brittle star in its mouth could be compared with a caterpillar in the salad.

Best wishes,
Bill Rudman

Rudman, W.B., 2007 (Mar 30). Comment on Dermatobranchus ornatus from Oman by Brian Mayes. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

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