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less white

few papillae

ocelli detail

young, 5 mm


egg mass

(?) sp. #1
Stylocheilus(?) sp. #1
Maximum size:  22 mm.

Identification:  This is a small, translucent-cream sea hare frosted with white and brown flecks. It's decorated with prominent blue and gold ocelli at all sizes. Although superficially similar to Stylocheilus striatus, it can be distinguished from that species by its more prominent blue and gold ocelli, more elaborate papillae and brown flecks that are random rather than arranged in lines.

Natural history:  Stylocheilus(?) sp. #1 is a moderately common species found in moderately protected to highly exposed rocky habitats from < 1 to 11 m (< 3 to 36 ft). It may also be found in Halimeda kanaloana beds. It feeds on cyanobacteria (blue-green algae). As in S. striatus, the blue and gold ocelli may represent aposematic coloration "advertising" the presence of toxins concentrated from its food. It lays a tangled, golden-brown egg string that hatches in six to seven days in the laboratory.

Distribution:  Big Island, Maui, Oahu, Kauai and Pearl & Hermes Reef: may be widely distributed in the Indo-Pacific (pending further work to determine whether the Hawaii population is the same as others in the Indo-Pacific).

Taxonomic notes:  Carlo Cunha (pers. com.) suggested that this species may be a Stylocheilus rather than a Bursatella since the latter genus lacks a shell and the widely distributed Bursatella leachii is much larger. (Note 1) However, further work will be needed to confirm the genus. It was first recorded in Hawaii from Maliko Bay, Maui by PF in Aug., 1992.

Photo:  CP: 16 mm:  Ulua Beach, Maui; April 2, 2005.

Observations and comments:

Note 1:  The largest of 90 animals from algae washes was only 22 mm in length and the few animals seen in the field weren't noticeably larger. Also, an 11 mm animal laid eggs while held. This contrasts with 150 to 200 mm for large Bursatella leachii.
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