Identity of Acanthodoris pilosa

December 12, 2002
From: Bernard Picton

FIGURES: From Muller, 1788. Tab LXXXV.
Doris muricata. Figs 2-4.
Doris pilosa. Figs 5-8.
[individual images rearranged digitally].

Dear Bill & Alma,
I've ended up spending some time answering what I thought would be a simple question! I actually have a copy of this rather rare book in my office. The description of Doris pilosa is actually in part 3 which is bound with other parts but starts new page numbering. The citation should really be Abildgaard in Muller, 1789, not Muller. Doris pilosa is Page 7. In another volume, which has the plates, it is Plate (Tabula) LXXXV. I'm upset because I don't think this is what we call Acanthodoris pilosa today at all! Alder & Hancock accepted this name as they say other authors before them had, but they are clearly unhappy about it and would settle for the name Doris stellata Gmelin, 1783. I can't read Latin very well, the description is in Latin. The illustration seems to show something with no gills, like a Doridella or Corambe.

What is worse is that also on this same plate is Doris muricata and in my opinion this is what we now call Adalaria loveni. This change would also leave us looking at a name change for Onchidoris muricata. Doris aspera of Alder & Hancock is certainly what we now call Onchidoris muricata. I'm not good at this sort of thing - rules of nomenclature, etc. so I'll have to see if someone wants to take on the job of sorting out the confusion. Doris muricata is actually first described in Muller's prodromus of 1776, so this later description and illustration is not the original one.

Christine Morrow recently realised that one of Muller's sponge names was being used wrongly. These mistakes were mostly made by the Victorian naturalists over 100 years ago so it messes up the more recent literature correcting them. This case was made even more confusing by the fact that there was a specimen in the Copenhagen museum labelled as type, while the illustration looks like another common species.

• Abildgaard, Petrus Christianus. 1789. [In]: O. F. Muller. Zoologia Danica, etc., Vol. 39(3):1-71, pls. 81-120.
• Muller, O. F. 1788. Zoologia Danica sev animalium Daniae et Norvegiae rariorum ac minus notorum descriptiones et historia, Vol. 2: 124 pp., pls. 51-80.
• Morrow, C.C. & Boury-Esnault, N., 2000. Redescription of the type species of the genus Polymastia Bowerbank, 1864 (Porifera, Demospongiae, Hadromerida). Zoosystema, 22(2): 327-335


Picton, B.E., 2002 (Dec 12) Identity of Acanthodoris pilosa. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

Thanks Bernard,
Many nomenclatural mistakes seem to be caused by not looking at the original literature so it is good to see some of the source material - though I must admit I like it better when it confirms our current ideas
Bill Rudman

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