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Ercolania
cf. coerulea
Trinchese, 1892
 
Ercolania cf. coerulea
Maximum size:  6 mm.

Identification:  This species has a cream body with extensive green branches of the digestive gland and scattered white flecks. The cerata are greatly inflated and decorated with iridescent blue-white flecks. Occasionally, there are a few brown flecks on their dorsal surfaces. There are carrot-shaped branches of the digestive gland in the centers of the cerata and thin, lateral branches in the tips of the central ones. The pericardium is opaque white.

Natural history:  Ercolania cf. coerulea is a moderately rare species found in moderately protected to moderately exposed rocky habitats at depths of about 1 m (3 ft). It usually occurs in association with green algae of the genus Dictyosphaeria and we've observed it feeding on that genus in dishes (probably on D. cavernosa). It shows a preference for resting on its host alga while held and is superbly camouflaged on it. When resting, it contracts slightly so its cerata create a circular outline resembling a small lobe of the alga and the individual cerata closely resemble the algal cells. It readily autotomizes the central cerata when disturbed and lays a flattened white egg mass.

Distribution:  Maui and Oahu: it is probably widely distributed in the Indo-Pacific.

Taxonomic notes:  The pattern of digestive gland branches and pigmentation appear to differ somewhat from the Atlantic Ercolania coerulea and from some Pacific animals attributed to that species. It was first recorded in Hawaii from Hekili Point, Maui by CP on May 3, 1991.

Photo:  CP: Hekili Point, Maui; May 31, 1991.

Observations and comments:

Note 1:  ( )
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