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Cerberilla
sp. #1

 
Cerberilla sp. #1
Maximum size:  15 mm.

Identification:  This is a translucent-cream animal with long cephalic tentacles and a broad foot. The cerata are stained with brown and have narrow yellow medial bands. The head has darker brown bands and a patch of yellow between the cephalic tentacles. (Note 1)

Natural history:  Unlike most Cerberilla spp, Cerberilla sp. #1 is a nocturnal feeder. We've observed it on a number of occasions foraging at night in holding dishes with its cephalic tentacles extended to the side. It buried itself in sand in the bottom of the dishes during the day. We have also seen it actively crawling in the field at night. Based on the number of animals seen, it's a moderately rare species that can be found in protected, back-reef sand patches at depths of about 1 m (3 ft) as well as in Halimeda kanaloana beds at depths of 6-11 m (20-36 ft). However, it's probably under counted in our samples due to its burrowing habits. We've observed it feeding on an anemone while held. (Note 2) It lays a white, corkscrew-shaped egg mass that is anchored in sand. The eggs hatch in about five days in the laboratory.

Distribution:  Big Island and Maui: may also be known from French Polynesia.

Taxonomic notes:  First recorded in Hawaii from Wahikuli Park, Maui by CP on July 15, 1996.

Photo:  CP: Hekili Point, Maui; Nov. 19, 2002.

Observations and comments:

Note 1:  The yellow pigment on the head and cerata shows strong green fluoresces under UV light. (see photo) Since this is a nocturnal species, the florescence might contribute to its pattern of camouflage under specific conditions (strong moonlight? dusk/dawn?) Or, it might be a neutral characteristic that is coincident to a pigment deposited for some other reason...

Note 2:  When a 7 mm animals was offered a 3 mm anemone attached to the side of a dish, it began feeding on it immediately after contact with its cephalic tentacles. When feeding, it extended its buccal tube and rasped the column of the anemone while folding its cephalic tentacles along the sides of its body. It rasped for several "bites" then crawled over the anemone, turned and repeated the sequence. Several such "attack sequences" were completed before the anemone was fully consumed. The use of a repeated, stereotyped "attack sequence" rather than continuous feeding suggests that it may normally feed on sand dwelling species that can withdraw or otherwise escape after one or two bites.
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