Felimare tricolor

Felimare tricolor (Cantraine, 1835)

Felimare tricolor by Enric Madrenas
Class: Gastropoda  Cuvier, 1797
Subclass: Heterobranchia  J.E. Gray, 1840
Clade: Euthyneura  Spengel, 1881
Clade: Nudipleura  Wägele & Willan, 2000
Order: Nudibranchia  Cuvier, 1817
Suborder: Euctenidiacea  Tardy, 1970
Infraorder: Doridacea  Thiele, 1931
Superfamily: Doridoidea  Rafinesque, 1815
Family: Chromodorididae  Bergh, 1891
Genus: Felimare  Ev. Marcus & Er. Marcus 1967
Species: Felimare tricolor (Cantraine, 1835) [Doris]

Taxonomic note: The European Atlantic and Mediterranean species of the genus Chromodoris and Hypselodoris have been reconsidered. After molecular analysis of the Chromodorididae performed by Johnson & Gosliner (2012, Traditional taxonomic groupings mask evolutionary history: A molecular phylogeny and new classification of the chromodorid nudibranchs. PLoS ONE 7(4): 33479) the Hypselodoris species have been included in the genus Felimare Ev. Marcus & Er. Marcus, 1967 and the Chromodoris species have been included in the genus Felimida Ev. Marcus, 1971.

This species leaded one of the most famous controversies in the opisthobranch world. There is a group of specialists that claimed Felimare tricolor was a different species without discussion, while others claimed that it was Felimare midatlantica (Gosliner, 1990). Since the paper (Furfaro et al., 2016) it can be concluded that Felimare midatlantica is F. tricolor in the end. Both WoRMS and CLEMAM databases label F. tricolor as a valid species and F. midatlantica as a synonym.


  • Chromodoris tricolor (Cantraine, 1835)
  • Doris tricolor Cantraine, 1835 (original)
  • Felimare midatlantica (Gosliner, 1990)
  • Glossodoris tricolor (Cantraine, 1835)
  • Hypselodoris midatlantica Gosliner, 1990
  • Hypselodoris tricolor (Cantraine, 1835)
  • Mexichromis tricolor (Cantraine, 1835)

The animals of this species typically measure between 20 and 30 mm in length. The body is slender, somewhat wider in its anterior side and color is bluish. The edge of the mantle is yellow and the center of the back has a longitudinal band running from the area between the rhinophores to the gill sheath, surrounding it and continuing until near the back edge of the mantle. The middle dorsal line is whitish in smaller specimens and gradually becomes yellow as they grow up. On both sides of the central yellow band on the back there are usually several turquoise rounded or oblong spots that appear perfectly aligned. On the flanks of the body there is also a whitish or yellowish longitudinal band that surrounds the genital papilla on the right side, forming a ring around it. Both sidebands are joined in the tail as a yellow dorsal band. Ortea et al. (1996) indicate the color variability according to the exemplary species and size. The laminar zone of the rhinophores has 20-25 lamellae and is coloured dark blue, the apex is somewhat clearer, as is the alaminar basal zone. The rhinophoric sheath is high and has a smooth edge. The gill consists of 8-10 gill leaves coloured dark blue with a beige or white rachis; gill lamellae of each sheet are semitransparent and alternately large and small. The foot is narrow and truncated on the front side, the mouth has two short and wide oral palps.

This species is relatively common throughout both European Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts, living from the intertidal zone down to over 100 m deep. It prefers rocky substrates and vertical walls with abundance of algae and invertebrates, or under stones. Specimens of this species have from 2-5 type 3 defensive glands (MDF’s) on the back edge of the mantle and occasionally at the leading edge, near the rhinophores (García-Gómez et al 1991;. Wägele et al. 2006). Several secondary metabolites have been isolated from its body, of the sesquiterpenoids type, such as longifolina, obtained from the sponge species it feeds on, of the genus Dysidea (D. avara, D. fragilis) and showing a clear defensive mission when they are expelled outside (Àvila, 1993; Fontana et al., 1993). The spawn is an spiral wounded ribbon of 3 laps and about 2 mm in height, containing white eggs about 90 microns in diameter (Ortea et al. 1996).


  • Tricolor. From Latin “tres”, three + “color”, color.

This is an European species that has been recorded from the Atlantic coast of France to the western Mediterranean, also in the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands. However, as it has been repeatedly confused with other species of blue Felimare (F. villafranca, F. fontandraui, F. orsinii) it is possible that geographical distribution could be wider. In the Iberian Peninsula it has been cited in all coastal areas (Cervera et al ,. 2004) and in Catalonia it has been reported in many locations in the Costa Brava, also in Canet de Mar, Mataró and at the Port of l’Estany (Tarragona).

Known georeferenced records of the species: Felimare tricolor (z-200).
: GROC 2010-2011 : VIMAR
: Enric Madrenas : Manuel Ballesteros.
: João Pedro Silva : M@re Nostrum
: Bernard Picton : Other sources
: GBIF.ORG : Marine Regions

References for the species: Felimare tricolor

    Cantabria: Ávila Escartín (1993). Galicia: Ortea (1977c, as Glossodoris tricolor), Ortea, Valdés and García-Gómez (1996). Portugal: Calado et al. (1999, 2005), Muzavor and Morenito (1999), Malaquias and Morenito (2000). Andalucía (Atl.): García Gómez, Medina and Coveñas (1991). Gibraltar: García-Gómez (1983), García-Gómez et al. (1989), García Gómez, Medina and Coveñas (1991), Ortea, Valdés and García-Gómez (1996), Gosliner and Johnson (1999). Andalucía (Med.): Luque (1983, 1986), Salas and Luque (1986), Schick (1998), Ocaña et al. (2000), Peñas et al. (in press). Levante: Ortea, Valdés and García-Gómez (1996), Marín and Ros (1987), Templado et al. (2002). Catalunya: Ros (1975, 1978, 1985), Ballesteros (1980, 1985), Altimira et al. (1981), Ortea et al. (1996). Antes de 1996, muchos registros de esta especie se refieren a Glossodoris. Baleares: Vicente (1964), Ros (1975, 1978b), Ros and Altimira (1977), Pereira (1980), Altimira, Huelin and Ros (1981), Huelin and Ros (1984), Ballesteros (1985), Ballesteros and Templado (1996). Canarias: Ballesteros (1981a), Ortea, Valdés and García-Gómez (1996), Ortea et al. (2001, 2003), Malaquias and Calado (1997), Moro et al. (2003). Madeira: Ortea, Valdés and García-Gómez (1996), Wirtz (1999). Azores: Gosliner (1990), Ortea, Valdés and García-Gómez (1996), Wirtz (1998), Ávila et al. (1998), Ávila (2000), Malaquias (2001), Wirtz and Debelius (2003).

    General: Cattaneo-Vietti, Chemello, & Giannuzzi-Savelli, 1990:75[P]; Perrone, 1986a:29; Schmekel, 1970:191; Schmekel & Portmann, 1982:66[P]; Thompson, 1976a:[P]

    Sources: Cervera et al., 2004, Ballesteros, 2007, McDonald, 2006 and other sources.


        Western Mediterranean:3 Stars
        Eastern Mediterranean:0.0 Stars
        Atlantic Ocean:0.0 Stars
This chart displays the observation probability for Felimare tricolor
based on our own records.

More pictures


Bibliography based on the works by Steve Long, 2006. Bibliography of Opisthobranchia 1554-2000 and Gary McDonald, 2009. Bibliographia Nudibranchia, with later updates from other resources.

Further reading

Cite this article as:

Ballesteros, Manuel, Enric Madrenas, Miquel Pontes et al. (2012-2017) "Felimare tricolor" in OPK-Opistobranquis, Published: 16/05/2012, Accessed: 28/03/2017 at (http://opistobranquis.info/en/EmK29)

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