Melibe sp. from Thailand

October 24, 2008
From: Lawrence Neal

Concerning message #21985:

Dear Bill,

Just to continue with the Melibe mirifica, M. japonica, M. viridis saga, here is a specimen photographed in the northern Gulf of Thailand, found on a flat plain of mixed sand and sediment in a sheltered bay, about 10 metres deep. This one is what I would call perhaps 'champagne' coloured but we occasionally come across darker specimens more the colour of 'cognac'. They are well camouflaged and don't offer much contrast in photographs. I noticed that when there's a current running they seem to find a depression in the sand and flatten themselves into it, looking just like a blob of jelly. When they're on the move, they exhibit the characteristic 'oral veil casting' feeding pattern.

Locality: Haad Nual, Koh Larn, 10 metres, Chonburi province, Thailand, Gulf of Thailand, 25 February 2007, Sheltered sandy bay. Length: 200 mm. Photographer: Lawrence Neal.

Incidentally, this divesite is just a few miles west from Chantaburi province in Thailand where Bergh collected his type specimen of Melibe bucephala in 1900, so you might like to add this species name to the problematic three mentioned above.

All the best,

Neal, L., 2008 (Oct 24) Melibe sp. from Thailand. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

Dear Lawrence,

Thanks for this message. The recent M. japonica - M. mirifica conversation you mention has caused me to re-read Gosliner & Smith's (2003) revision of the genus. 

Of the species we are discussing, they consider M. viridis and M. bucephala to be distinct species, but consider M. mirifica to be a probable synonym of M. viridis. They also consider M. japonica to be unidentifiable, but most likely to be another synonym of M. viridis.  As I discussed before [message #21985] Allan's description of M. mirifica can be matched with the recently found animals in Queensland, and also to the species in Japan that Japanese workers have identified with M. japonica. If so, it is certanly not a synonym of M. viridis.

Considering Gosliner & Smith consider the original descriptions of M. mirifica and M. japonica to be inadequate, I am surprised they feel able to recognise M. bucephala which was described, also poorly, from one damaged, preserved specimen, As Kathe Jensen notes [#13409], the holotype consists now of an empty carcase, so its anatomy cannot be revisited. Bergh's only comment on the living colour was that it was brown. Gosliner & Smith base their review of its anatomy on a single preserved specimen from the Suez Canal identified by O'Donoghue (1929). There is no way of knowing if this animal was conspecific with Berh's M. bucephala, and O'Donoghue's note that an accompanying colour sketch showed that the papillae has irregular white spots, and some rounded projections on the outer side [of the body] are a deep red, could well fit what I am calling M. viridis.

Which brings me to your animals. I would consider them to be large M. viridis. Gosliner & Smith consider that species is the only one with tubercles and papillae on the dorsum and the cerata, as your animals clearly have. That would also mean that the animals I have recently placed as Melibe cf. mirifica are M. viridis as well [#21985 ]. That certainly clarifies that little puzzle. Any comments welcome.

Best wishes,
Bill Rudman

Rudman, W.B., 2008 (Oct 24). Comment on Melibe sp. from Thailand by Lawrence Neal. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from


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