Mexichromis multituberculata, copyright Steve Childs.

Belongs within: Doridina.
Contains: Glossodoris, Chromodoris, Hypselodoris.

The Chromodorididae are a group of usually brightly-coloured nudibranchs that feed on sponges.

Stunning sea slugs
Published 4 March 2014
Chromodoris willani, photographed by Samantha Craven.

The name ‘sea slug’ does not sound immediately enticing to those not in the know, but in fact they include some of the world’s most fabulous animals. The Chromodorididae are a family of more than 300 species of ludicrously colourful sea slugs, with the greater number of species found in the Indo-West Pacific region. They are specialist feeders on sponges, preferring those sponges that do not contain mineralised spicules.

Cadlinella ornatissima, photographed by Barb Makohin.

Their bright colours, of course, are a signal to any would-be predators that they are highly toxic and distasteful, in the manner of monarch butterflies, poison-arrow frogs, or raspberry cordial. As noted by sea-slug researcher Bill Rudman in this forum post, toxic compounds are often concentrated in the mantle fringe that runs around the sides of the chromodorids. They will often flap this mantle, and Rudman speculates that this may make an attacker more likely to bite off a piece of the distasteful (and easily regrown) mantle rather than the main body of the animal.

Pair of Hypselodoris bennetti, photographed by Richard Ling.

Until the classification of the Indo-West Pacific species was reviewed by Rudman (1984), most chromodorid species were lumped into a single genus Chromodoris under the belief that there were few relaible characters available to distinguish higher taxa within the family. Rudman (1984) identified a number of features, including characters of the reproductive and digestive tracts, that could be used to separate genera. A molecular analysis of the family by Johnson & Gosliner (2012) led them to recognise 17 genera of chromodorids, with genera recognised by Rudman (1984) as pan-tropical proving to be polyphyletic.

Doriprismatica kulonba (previously Digidentis kulonba), photographed by Bill Rudman).

Though sea slugs are mostly thought of as tropical animals, there are some that make there homes in cooler waters. Doriprismatica kulonba, for instance, is found around south-east Australia.

Ceratosoma tenue, photographed by Steve Childs.

Long-term readers may have noticed that this post contains a somewhat lower text-to-imagery ratio than usual. For this, I make no apology.

Diversidoris flava (previously Noumea flava), photographed by Chad Ordelheide.
Systematics of Chromodorididae

Characters (from Bertsch 1977): Body usually brightly colored, dorsal skin texture usually smooth (dorsum occasionally with small, low, round tubercles), with lamellate rhinophores and gills surrounding anus. Receptaculum seminis attached to vagina or bursa copulatrix. Radular teeth numerous; erect shaft thicker along anteroposterior axis than laterally; denticles usually present; shaft of tooth may end distally as unicuspid, bicuspid, or acuspid.

Chromodorididae [Chromodoridinae, Doriprismaticinae, Glossodorididae, Glossodoridinae, Miamiridae]
    |  i. s.: Orodoris Bergh 1875V02
    |         Gravieria Vayssière 1912V02
    |         Sphaerodoris Bergh 1877V02
    |           `--S. incii (Gray 1850) [=Doris incii]H09
    |         Rosodoris Pruvot-Fol 1954B77
    |         ‘Doris’ alba van Hasselt 1824R84
    |--Cadlinella Thiele 1931R84, R95 [Cadlinellinae]
    |    |--*C. ornatissima (Risbec 1928) [=Cadlina ornatissima]BR17
    |    |--‘Echinodoris’ armata Eliot 1913 (n. d.)R95
    |    `--C. hirsuta Rudman 1995R95
       |  |--Verconia Pruvot-Fol 1931R84, V02
       |  |    `--*V. verconis (Basedow & Hedley 1905) [=Albania verconis]R84
       |  `--Ardeadoris Rudman 1984R84, V02
       |       `--*A. egretta Rudman 1984R84
       `--+--Tyrinna Bergh 1898R84, V02
          |    |--*T. nobilis Bergh 1898R84
          |    |--T. evelinae (Marcus 1958) [=Cadlina evelinae]R84
          |    |--‘Cadlina’ japonicaR84
          |    |--T. pusae Marcus 1959R84
          |    `--‘Cadlina’ sagamiensisR84
             |  `--Pectenodoris Rudman 1984R84, V02
             |       `--*P. trilineata (Adams & Reeve 1850) [=Goniodoris trilineata; incl. Chromodoris virgata Bergh 1905]R84
             `--+--Noumea Risbec 1928R84, B77
                |    |--*N. romeri Risbec 1928R84
                |    |--N. haliclona (Burn 1957) (see below for synonymy)R84
                |    |--N. nivalis Baba 1937R84
                |    |--N. norba Marcus & Marcus 1970R84
                |    |--N. simplex (Pease 1871) [=Chromodoris simplex]R84
                |    |--N. varians (Pease 1871)R84
                |    `--N. verconiforma Rudman 1995R95
                `--+--+--Digidentis Rudman 1984R84, R95
                   |  |    `--*D. arbuta (Burn 1961) [=Glossodoris arbuta, Babaina arbuta]R84
                   |  `--Thorunna Bergh 1878R84, R95 [incl. Babaina Odhner in Franc 1968R84; Thorunninae]
                   |       |--*T. furtiva Bergh 1878 [incl. Goniodoris flavidula Bergh 1873 (n. d.)]R84
                   |       |--T. africana Rudman 1984R84
                   |       |--T. daniellae (Kay & Young 1969)R84, B77 [=Hypselodoris daniellaeB77, Babaina daniellaeB77]
                   |       |--T. florens (Baba 1949)WBS-S15 [=Glossodoris florensB77, *Babaina florensB77]
                   |       |--T. horologia Rudman 1984R84
                   |       |--T. montrouzieri Rudman 1995R95
                   |       `--T. speciosus Rudman 1990R95
                   |    |--Miamira Bergh 1874BR05
                   |    |    |--*M. nobilis Bergh 1874BR17
                   |    |    |--M. miamirana (Bergh 1875)WBS-S15
                   |    |    `--M. sinuata (van Hasselt 1824) [=Doris sinuata]H09
                   |    `--Ceratosoma Adams & Reeve 1850R84, B77 [Ceratosomatidae, Ceratosomidae]
                   |         |--*C. trilobata (Gray 1827) [=Doris trilobata]BR17
                   |         |--C. amoena (Cheeseman 1886) [=Chromodoris amoena, Glossodoris amoena]R84
                   |         |--C. brevicaudatum Abraham 1876H01
                   |         |--C. cornigerum (Adams & Reeve in Adams 1848) (see below for synonymy)R84
                   |         |--C. gibbosum Rochebrune 1894H09
                   |         |--C. gracillimum Bergh 1876R84
                   |         |--C. lixi Rochebrune 1894H09
                   |         `--C. tenue Abraham 1876H09
                   `--+--Durvilledoris Rudman 1984R84, R95
                      |    |--*D. lemniscata (Quoy & Gaimard 1832) (see below for synonymy)R84
                      |    |--D. albofimbria Rudman 1995R95
                      |    `--D. pusilla (Bergh 1874)R95
                      |  `--Risbecia Odhner 1934R84, R95 [=Jeanrisbecia Odhner in Franc 1968R84, V02]
                      |       |--R. tryoni (Garrett 1873)R95, R84 (see below for synonymy)
                      |       |--R. godeffroyana (Garrett in Bergh 1877) (see below for synonymy)R84
                      |       |--R. imperialis (Pease 1860) [=Doriprismatica imperialis, Chromodoris imperialis]R84
                      |       |--R. pulchella (Ruppell & Leuckart 1828) [=Doris pulchella, Chromodoris pulchella]R84
                      |       `--R. versicolor (Risbec 1928) [=Chromodoris versicolor]R84
                      `--Mexichromis Bertsch 1977R84, B77
                           |--*M. antonii (Bertsch 1976) [=Chromodoris antonii]B77
                           |--M. festivaR84
                           |--M. kempfi (Marcus 1970) [=Chromodoris kempfi]R84
                           |--M. macropus Rudman 1983R84
                           |--M. mariei (Crosse 1872) [=Doridopsis mariei; incl. Chromodoris sannio]R84
                           |--M. multituberculata (Baba 1953) [=Glossodoris multituberculata]R84
                           |--M. porterae (Cockerell 1901) (see below for synonymy)R84
                           |--M. tricolor (Cantraine 1841) [=Doris tricolor]R84
                           |--M. trilineata (Adams & Reeve 1850)WBS-S15
                           `--M. tura (Marcus & Marcus 1967) [=Chromodoris tura, Thorunna tura]R84

Ceratosoma cornigerum (Adams & Reeve in Adams 1848) [=Polycera cornigera; incl. C. francoisi Rochebrune 1894, Doris trifida Gray 1850]R84

*Durvilledoris lemniscata (Quoy & Gaimard 1832) [=Doris lemniscata, Glossodoris lemniscata; incl. Chromodoris clitonota Bergh 1905, G. clitonota, Doris dorsalis Gould 1852, Chromodoris luxuriosa Bergh 1874, C. scurra Bergh 1874, C. variegata Pease 1871]R84

Mexichromis porterae (Cockerell 1901) [=Chromodoris porterae, Glossodoris porterae, Hypselodoris porterae]R84

Noumea haliclona (Burn 1957) [=Glossodoris haliclona; incl. N. cameroni Burn 1966, N. margaretae Burn 1966]R84

Risbecia godeffroyana (Garrett in Bergh 1877) [=Chromodoris godeffroyana, Goniobranchis godeffroyanus, Goniodoris godeffroyana, Hypselodoris godeffroyana]R84

Risbecia tryoni (Garrett 1873)R95, R84 [=Goniodoris tryoniR84, Chromodoris tryoniR84, Hypselodoris tryoniR84; incl. Ceratosoma francoisi Risbec 1928 non Rochebrune 1894R84, *Risbecia francoisi Odhner 1934R84, *Jeanrisbecia francoisiR84, R. odhneri Risbec 1953R84]

*Type species of generic name indicated


[B77] Bertsch, H. 1977. The Chromodoridinae nudibranchs from the Pacific coast of America.—Part I. Investigative methods and supra-specific taxonomy. Veliger 20 (2): 107–118.

[BR05] Bouchet, P., & J.-P. Rocroi. 2005. Classification and nomenclator of gastropod families. Malacologia 47 (1–2): 1–397.

[BR17] Bouchet, P., J.-P. Rocroi, B. Hausdorf, A. Kaim, Y. Kano, A. Nützel, P. Parkhaev, M. Schrödl & E. E. Strong. 2017. Revised classification, nomenclator and typification of gastropod and monoplacophoran families. Malacologia 61 (1–2): 1–526.

[H09] Hedley, C. 1909. The Marine Fauna of Queensland: Address by the President of Section D. Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science: Brisbane.

[H01] Huys, R. 2001. Splanchnotrophid systematics: a case of polyphyly and taxonomic myopia. Journal of Crustacean Biology 21 (1): 106–156.

Johnson, R. F., & T. M. Gosliner. 2012. Traditional taxonomic groupings mask evolutionary history: a molecular phylogeny and new classification of the chromodorid nudibranchs. PLoS ONE 7 (4): e33479. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0033479.

[R84] Rudman, W. B. 1984. The Chromodorididae (Opisthobranchia: Mollusca) of the Indo-west Pacific: a review of the genera. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 81 (2–3): 115–273.

[R95] Rudman, W. B. 1995. The Chromodorididae (Opisthobranchia: Mollusca) of the Indo-West Pacific: further species from New Caledonia and the Noumea romeri colour group. Molluscan Research 16: 1–43.

[V02] Valdés, Á. 2002. A phylogenetic analysis and systematic revision of the cryptobranch dorids (Mollusca, Nudibranchia, Anthobranchia). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 136: 535–636.

[WBS-S15] Willan, R. C., C. Bryce & S. M. Slack-Smith. 2015. Kimberley marine biota. Historical data: molluscs. Records of the Western Australian Museum Supplement 84: 287–343.

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