Melibe viridis

Melibe viridis Kelaart, 1858

Melibe viridis @ Mar Piccolo, Taranto, Italy by Guido Villani

Class: Gastropoda  Cuvier, 1797
Subclass: Heterobranchia  J.E. Gray, 1840
Clade: Euthyneura  Spengel, 1881
Clade: Nudipleura  Wägele & Willan, 2000
Order: Nudibranchia  Cuvier, 1817
Suborder: Dexiarchia  Schrödl, Wägele & Willan, 2001
Infraorder: Cladobranchia Willan and Morton, 1984
Parvorder: Dendronotida Odhner, 1934
Superfamily: Tritonioidea  Lamarck, 1809
Family: Tethydidae  Rafinesque, 1815
Genus: Melibe  Rang, 1829
Species: Melibe viridis  Kelaart, 1858


  • Melibaea viridis Kelaart, 1858
  • Melibe fimbriata Alder & Hancock, 1864
  • Melibe japonica Eliot, 1913
  • Melibe mirifica (Allan, 1932)
  • Melibe rangi Bergh, 1875
  • Melibe vexillifera Bergh, 1880
  • Meliboea viridis Kelaart, 1858
  • Propemelibe mirifica Allan, 1932

This nudibranch is quite big, it’s average size is about 30-40cm, with a maximum reported size of 55 cm (at Karantun, Ugljan, Croatia; Prkić, October 2016, pers. comm.). It has the translucent body, of a brown-yellowish or greenish hue, and some internal organs can be seen by transparency. The body is elongated, limaciform, somewhat compressed anterolaterally with a dorsal lump over the cardiac area, and narrows toward the back of the foot. It has a characteristic and highly developed oral hood located around the mouth, bordered by a series of tentacles that allow the animal to retain its preys. The rhinophores are very small, have 5 to 7 lamellae, and emerge from rhinophoric sheaths that  grow on the oral hood, within which they can retract. The cerata are large (usually 4 to 9 on each side of the body), brown colored and arranged along the edge of the mantle. Each cera has a cylindrical or oval section and a flattened end. The whole body surface is covered with rounded tubercles. The anus is located on the right side of the body, right before the second cera, while the gonopore is located right before the first cera, also on the right side. It has no radula.

Like the other species of the genus it feeds on small crustaceans and other organisms that are captured with the large oral hood, throwing it as a cast net or throw net while it moves along the bottom, and that shrinks quickly when it detects a prey inside. Some species of the genus, but not Melibe viridis, have symbiotic zooxanthellae algae in their tissues, that contribute to animal metabolism with nutrients obtained via photosynthesis. The spawn consists of a delicate gelatinous ribbon attached to the bottom, containing chains of egg capsules laid in spiral. Each capsule contains up to 3 embryos. The veliger larvae are dispersed in the plankton after 8 days at 21ºC. In the marine environment it has the appearance of a mass of algal debris, making it difficult to spot thanks to its great mimetism with the environment. The cerata are autotomized by the animal when threatened, they regenerate quickly afterwards. If necessary it can swim with lateral undulating movements of the body.


  • Melibe. From Greek “Meliboia” an Oceanid (an ocean nymph) loved by Orontes, a river-god of Syria (Western Asia), and loved by the first king of Arkadia, Pelasgos.
  • Viridis. From Latin “viridis”, green.

This species is native to the Indo-Pacific, where there are records from South Africa, East Africa, Australia, the Philippines and Japan. It has also been cited in the Mediterranean, where it first appeared on the island of Cephalonia, Greece in 1970 (Mooseleitner, 1986) and later records in the Gulf of Korinthiakos, Greece (Mooseleitner, 1986); in the Strait of Messina, Italy (Mojetta, 1998); in the region of Calabria, Italy (G. Villani, identification confirmed by J. Templado) and Croatia (Despalatovic et al., 2002; Prkić, 2016, pers. comm.). Some specimens found on the island of Milos (Greece) seems to be successfully established on a Cymodocea nodosa meadow, about 10-12 meters deep, in a geothermally active area, although most of the other reports often are made on muddy bottoms about 2-3 meters deep.

Known georeferenced records of the species: Melibe viridis
: GROC 2010-2011
: Enric Madrenas
: João Pedro Silva
: Bernard Picton
: Manuel Ballesteros.
: M@re Nostrum
: Altres fonts
: Marine Regions


    Western Mediterranean:
    Eastern Mediterranean:
    Atlantic Ocean:
This chart displays the observation probability for Melibe viridis based on our own records.


Melibe sp. feeding. Video by Michael W. Ishack

More pictures


Further reading

Cite this article as:

Pontes, Miquel, Manuel Ballesteros, Enric Madrenas et al. (2012-2017) "Melibe viridis" in OPK-Opistobranquis, Published: 26/03/2013, Accessed: 23/11/2017 at (

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