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side, pale


tall tubercles



tubercle detail


with shrimp

Dendrodoris tuberculosa
(Quoy & Gaimard, 1832)
Dendrodoris tuberculosa
Maximum size:  150 mm (Kay, 1979).

Identification:  This is a broad, moderately firm species with closely spaced clusters of elaborate tubercles on its notum. The sides of the central tubercle in each cluster are usually covered by multiple rings of smaller tubercles. The height of the secondary tubercles is variable. Its body ranges from cream to pale rose and lighter bands radiate from the tubercles to the margin of the notum. Dark brown patches may be present between the tubercles but they are usually less extensive than in Dendrodoris carbunculosa. It may be distinguished from D. carbunculosa by its translucent notum, its more elaborate tubercles and the presence of prominent white spots on its underside. In photos taken with a flash, it often appears to have light lines running along the crests formed by the rings of smaller tubercles. (Note 1).

Natural history:  Dendrodoris tuberculosa is a moderately rare species found in moderately protected to moderately exposed rocky habitats at depths of < 1 to 26 m (< 3 to 85 ft). It lays a cream egg mass with a frilly margin. (Kay & Young, 1969) Occasionally, it may host the commensal shrimp, Periclimenes imperator. (see photo)

Distribution:  Big Island, Maui, Lanai, Molokai, Oahu and Kauai: widely distributed in the Indo-Pacific.

Taxonomic notes:  This species is referred to as the "tuberculous nudibranch" in Hoover, 1998 & 2006. It may have been first reported from Hawaii in Kay & Young, 1969 assuming that Doris rugosa Pease, 1860 is actually a synonym of D. carbunculosa, contra the suggestion in Kay, 1979. The first photo in Bertsch and Johnson, 1981 is actually of D. carbunculosa, instead.

Photo:  CP: 120 mm: Hekili Point, Maui; Nov. 4, 2002.

Observations and comments:

Note 1:  Perhaps, the translucent tissue of the notum acts as a lens, focusing the reflected light of the flash in such a way that it is concentrated along the crests? The lines are generally not visible to the eye.
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