Luisella babai

Luisella babai (Schmekel, 1972)

Luisella babai by Enric Madrenas










































Luisella babai  (Schmekel, 1972)

 Classification according to Bouchet et al. (2017)
Taxonomic source: World Register of Marine Species (AphiaID: 1047610).

Taxonomic note: The classification of the Flabellinidae had remained fairly stable until in 2017 a series of works appeared (Furfaro et al., 2017; Korshunova et al., 2017) that intended to clarify the status of the Flabellinidae family. The main objective of the paper by Furfaro et al. was to molecularly characterize the Mediterranean species while the paper by Korshunova et al. wanted to delve into the phylogenetic relationships between various members of the Flabellinidae family and the other families of aeolidaceans.
Both works were based on the combination of molecular and morphological techniques and, in fact, do not offer very different results, but differ on the size and origin of the studied samples and, mainly, on the interpretation of the results. After the appearance of the paper by Furfaro et al., many Mediterranean species of the genera Calmella, Flabellina and Piseinotecus were grouped under the common genusFlabellina, but had certain problems with some species that did not fit well with the proposed classification (e.g,Flabellina babai) , discovered that the Mediterranean and Atlantic populations ofFlabellina ischitana correspond to two different cryptic species, and noted the problems of the cryptic group formed by Calmella cavolini / Flabellina confusa / Piseinotecus gaditanus, indicating the need for further studies to clarify their status.
Curiously, these studies were being carried out practically in parallel by the group of Korshunova et al. but on a much wider sample of species that included specimens from the Arctic, North Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. This second paper confirms the polyphily of the family Flabellinidae, but the interpretation of these results becomes a real revolution for the taxonomy of the aeolidaceans, especially for the family Flabellinidae.
Both papers show that there are two well differentiated clades (groups) in the Flabellinidae: species like Coryphella pedata and similars, with cerata that come directly from the back, and species like Flabellina affinis and similars, with cerata of each group coming from a stalk or pod. Although Furfaro et al. consider the species of both clades belonging to the genusFlabellina within the family Flabellinidae, Korshunova et al. distinguishes two families: Coryphellidae and Flabellinidae sensu stricto, also creating many different genera in these families to include the species they study. Its taxonomic proposal, curiously, solves the problems found by Furfaro et al.
In a way, both papers complement to each other, although in the paper by Korshunova et al. it is evident the lack of studies on tropical flabellinid species and those from southern America and Africa, so the subject has not been settled. The proposal to create new genera to collect small groups of species, instead of multispecific genera, seems to be the trend in some of the phylogenetic works of recent years. We hope to see new papers expanding the knowledge on the aeolidaceans soon. A detailed discussion of this exciting controversy can be found at (


  • Flabellina babai  Schmekel, 1972

Specimens of this conspicuous species can reach 40 mm in length. The body color is translucent white, with some blue iridescence on the back, in the cerata and oral palps. In some animals a longitudinal opaque white line can be seen on both sides of the dorsum, just below the base of cerata, that continues forward to the cephalic region and the outer side of oral palps. These oral palps are long and colored white, while the propodial palps are short and are ridged ventrally. Both rhinophores start close together at the base, are colored white and have numerous tightly packed orange lamellae on the tip. The eyes are located at the base of each rhinophore. The cerata are grouped in 7-10 groups on both sides or the back. As with F. affinis, the cerata grow from a common basal pod, in groups of 4-5 cerata, being the outermost the smaller, and the innermost the biggest. The cerata are also colored white, and the digestive gland inside can be seen by transparency as a very soft fine orange cord; subapical area of the cerata is bright orange color that fades towards the base. The tips of cerata are sharp and a white cnidosac can be easily observed inside. The foot is translucent white with an opaque white margin .

This is a very active species that it is often observed wandering on the rocks and that despite its relatively big size and conspicuous colors it was not described to science until 1972 in the Gulf of Naples, one of the most studied areas in the opisthobranchs field. It has been associated with different species of hydroids (Campanularia, Eudendrium, Perigonimus = bougainvilla), but it is unclear whether it feeds on them. The spawn is a string of about 0.7 mm wide with white eggs.


  • Luisella, in honor to the nudibranch expert Luise Schmekel, who described this species, and author of the famous monography “Opisthobranchia des Mittelmeeres”.
  • babai in honor to the eminent Japanese investigator Kikutaro Baba, deceased in 2001 at the age of 94.

Despite its recent description, it has been reported throughout the Mediterranean, from the Turkish coast to Croatia, the Italian Peninsula, the Portuguese coast, the Andalusian coast and Strait of Gibraltar. Also on the coast of Dakar (Senegal). In Catalonia has been cited in Llançà, Cadaqués, L’Escala and Roses, among other locations.

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

References for the species: Luisella babai

    Portugal: García-Gómez et al. (1991), Calado and Urgorri (1999), Calado et al. (1999, 2003), Wirtz and Debelius (2003). Andalucía (Atl.): Megina (unpubl. data). Gibraltar: García-Gómez (1984a, 1986a, 2002). Andalucía (Med.): Luque (1986), Templado, Talavera and Murillo (1987), Schick (1998), Sánchez Tocino, Ocaña and García (2000a), Ocaña et al. (2000). Catalunya: Wirtz & Debelius (2003), Ballesteros (datos no publicados) [Cap Falcó, Punta del Gat, El Bisbe de Roses, L’Almadrava de Roses, Arenys de Mar], M@re Nostrum [Bau de S’Arnella (El Port de la Selva) 6/2000, Furallons del Gou (El Port de la Selva) 10/1998, Es Caials (Cadaqués) 4/2006].

    General: Cattaneo-Vietti, Chemello, & Giannuzzi-Savelli, 1990:163[P]; Garcia-Gomez, 1986:39; Schmekel & Portmann, 1982:191[P]

    Sources: Cervera et al., 2004, Ballesteros, 2007 & 2016, McDonald, 2006 and other sources.

Similar species
Dicata odhneri with a smaller, opaque white body, cerata completely white and smooth rhinophores.


    Western Mediterranean:2 out of 5 stars
    Eastern Mediterranean:2 out of 5 stars
    Atlantic Ocean:1 out of 5 stars

This chart displays the monthly observation probability for Luisella babai based on our own records.



More pictures


    Aguado Jiménez, F., and A. Marín. 2007. Warning coloration associated with nematocyst-based defences in aeolidiodean nudibranchs. Journal of Molluscan Studies 73(1):23-28.
    Ballesteros, M. 2007. Lista actualizada de los opistobranquios (Mollusca: Gastropoda: Opisthobranchia) de las costas catalanas. Spira. 2: 163–188.
    Ballesteros, M., E. Madrenas, and M. Pontes. 2021. OPK - Opistobranquis. (
    Ballesteros, M., E. Madrenas, and M. Pontes. 2016. Actualización del catálogo de los moluscos opistobranquios (Gastropoda: Heterobranchia) de las costas catalanas. Spira 6(2016): 1-28.
    Ballesteros, M., M. Pontes, and E. Madrenas. 2015. Opisthobranch from Medes Islands (Marine Protected Area, Costa Brava, Catalonia, NE Spain): 40 years of study.
    Ballesteros, M., M. Pontes, and E. Madrenas. 2019. Els nudibranquis del mar català. Brau, Figueres.
    Barletta, G. 1981. Gasteropodi nudi (Pleurobranchomorpha, Sacoglossa, Aplysiomorpha e Nudibranchia) Consiglio Nazionale delle Richerche, Guide per il riconoscimento delle specie animali delle acque lagunari e costiere italiane AQ/1/92, 3. Quaderni della Civica Stazione Idrobiologica di Milano (9):1-124.
    Barletta, G., and G. Melone. 1976. Nudibranchi del Promontorio di Portofino (Genova) (Gastropoda Nudibranchia). Natura, Societa Italiana di Scienze Naturali, Milano 67(3-4):203-236.
    Barletta, G., M. Mariani, and C. Perego. 1990. Considerazioni preliminari sugli opistobranchi viventi nella baia di Paraggi (Ge). Lavori della Societa Italiana di Malacologia 23:247-260.
    Bavestrello, G., C. Cerrano, R. Cattaneo-Vietti, and M. Sara. 1996. Relations between Eudendrium glomeratum (Cnidaria, Hydromedusae) and its associated vagile fauna. Sci.-Mar.-Barc. 60(1):137-143.
    Bedulli, D., R. Cattaneo-Vietti, R. Chemello, F. Ghisotti, and F. Giovine. 1995. Gastropoda Opisthobranchia, Divasibranchia, Gymnomorpha, Fascicolo 15, pp. 1-23.  In: A. Minelli, A. Ruffo, & S. La Posta (Eds.). Checklist delle specie fauna italiana, Checklist delle specie della Fauna Italiana. Calderini, Bologna.
    Bertsch, H. 1993. Japanese contributions to opisthobranch research, with special reference to Takeo Abe, Iwao Hamatani, and Kikutaro Baba. Western Society of Malacologists, Annual Report 25:15-24.
    Bielecki, S., G. Cavignaux, J. M. Crouzet, and S. Grall. 2011. Des limaces de rêve.
    Calado, G., and V. Urgorri. 1998. Additions and new data on Portuguese Opisthobranchs. Bollettino Malacologico 35 (5- 8): 97-102.
    Calado, G., M. Malaquias, C. Gavaia, J. L. Cervera, C. Megina, B. Dayrat, Y. Camacho, M. Pola, and C. Grance. 2003. New data on opisthobranchs (Mollusca: Gastropoda) from the southwestern coast of Portugal. Boletín Instituto Español de Oceanografía 19 (1-4): 199-204.
    Calado, G., V. Urgorri, R. Gaspar, and F. J. Cristobo. 1999. Catálogo de los moluscos opistobranquios bentónicos de las costas de Setúbal-Espichel (Portugal). Nova Acta Científica Compostelana (Bioloxía) 9: 285-294.
    Carmona, L., M. Pola, T. M. Gosliner, and J. L. Cervera. 2013. A tale that morphology fails to tell: A molecular phylogeny of Aeolidiidae (Aeolidida, Nudibranchia, Gastropoda). PLoS ONE 8(5): e63000. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063000.
    Cattaneo-Vietti, R. 1986. Alcune considerazioni sui molluschi opistobranchi del Mar Ligure. Lavori Societa Italiana di Malacologia 22:85-96.
    Cattaneo-Vietti, R., and G. Barletta. 1984. Elenco preliminare dei molluschi opistobranchi viventi nel Mediterraneo (Sacoglossa, Pleurobranchomorpha, Acochlidiacea, Aplysiomorpha, Nudibranchia). Bollettino Malacologico (Pubblicazione Mensile Edita dalla Societa Italiana di Malacologia) 20(9-12):195-218.
    Cattaneo-Vietti, R., and T. E. Thompson. 1989. Mediterranean opisthobranch molluscs: a zoogeographic approach. Bollettino Malacologico (Pubblicazione Mensile Edita dalla Societa Italiana di Malacologia) 25(5-8):183-204.
    Cattaneo-Vietti, R., R. Chemello, and R. Giannuzzi-Savelli. 1990. Atlante dei nudibranchi del Mediterraneo. La Conchiglia, Rome 264 pp, 14 pls. (104 clr. ill), line drawings.
    Cervera, J. L., J. Templado, J. C. García-Gómez, M. Ballesteros, J. Ortea, F. J. García, J. Ros, and A. A. Luque. 1988. Catálogo actualizado y comentado de los Opistobranquios (Mollusca, Gastropoda) de la Península Ibérica, Baleares y Canarias, con algunas referencias a Ceuta y la isla de Alborán. Iberus, supl. 1: 1-84.
    Cervera, J. L., G. Calado, C. Gavaia, M. A. E. Malaquías, J. Templado, M. Ballesteros, J. C. García-Gómez, and C. Megina. 2004. An annotated and updated checklist of the opisthobranchs (Mollusca: Gastropoda) from Spain and Portugal (including islands and archipelagos). Boletín Instituto Español de Oceanografía, 20 (1-4): 1-111. L.
    Dacosta, J. M., M. Pontes, A. Ollé i Callau, and L. Aguilar. 2009. Seguiment de mol·luscs opistobranquis a la platja des Caials (Cadaqués, Alt Empordà). Contribució al catàleg del Parc Natural de Cap de Creus. Annals de l’Institut d’Estudis Empordanesos. 40: 107–130.
    Debelius, H., and R. H. Kuiter. 2007. Nudibranchs of the world. IKAN- Unterwasserarchiv, Frankfurt.
    Doneddu, M., B. Manunza, and E. Trainito. 1995. Opistobranchi del Nord Sardegna: censimento ed annotazioni. Biologia Marina Mediterranea II (2): 369-370.
    Flanders Marine Institute. 2018. Maritime Boundaries Geodatabase: Territorial Seas. Maritime Boundaries Geodatabase. (
    Furfaro, G., and P. Mariottini. 2016. Check-list of the Nudibranchs (Mollusca Gastropoda) from the biodiversity hot spot " Scoglio del Corallo " (Argentario promontory, Tuscany). Biodiversity Journal. 7: 67–78.
    Furfaro, G., D. Salvi, E. Mancini, and P. Mariottini. 2017. A multilocus view on Mediterranean aeolid nudibranchs (Mollusca): Systematics and cryptic diversity of Flabellinidae and Piseinotecidae. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 118: 13–22.
    Furfaro, G., F. Vitale, C. Licchelli, and P. Mariottini. 2020. Two Seas for One Great Diversity: Checklist of the Marine Heterobranchia (Mollusca; Gastropoda) from the Salento Peninsula (South-East Italy). Diversity. 12: 171.
    Garcia, F. J., and H. Bertsch. 2009. Diversity and distribution of the Gastropoda Opisthobranchia from the Atlantic Ocean: A global biogeographic approach. Scientia Marina. 73: 153–160.
    García-Gómez, J. C. 1986a. El género Flabellina Voigt, 1879 (Gastropoda: Nudibranchia) en el litoral ibérico. Bollettino Malacologico 22 (1-4): 37-48.
    García-Gómez, J. C. 1984. A new species of Flabellina (Gastropoda, Nudibranchia) from the Gibraltar Strait (Southern Spain). Vie et Milieu 34 (1): 61-64.
    García-Gómez, J. C. 2002. Paradigmas de una fauna insólita; Los moluscos opistobranquios del estrecho de Gibraltar (Serie Ciencias) 20: 397 pp. Instituto de Estudios Gibraltareños. Algeciras, Cádiz, Spain.
    García-Gómez, J. C., J. L. Cervera, F. J. García, J. A. Ortea, S. F. García-Martin, A. Medina, and L. P. Burnay. 1991. Resultados de la campaña internacional de biología marina “Algarve 88”: moluscos opistobranquios. Bollettino Malacologico 27 (5-9): 125-138.
    Göbbeler, K., and A. Klussmann Kolb. 2010. Out of Antarctica?-New insights into the phylogeny and biogeography of the Pleurobranchomorpha (Mollusca, Gastropoda). Molecular  Phylogenetics & Evolution. 55: 996–1007.
    Gosliner, T. M. 1979. The systematics of the Aeolidiacea (Nudibranchia: Mollusca) of the Hawaiian Islands, with descriptions of two new species. Pacific Science 33(1): 37-77.
    Korshunova, T. A., A. V. Martynov, T. Bakken, J. Evertsen, K. Fletcher, I. W. Mundiata, H. Saito, K. Lundin, M. Schrödl, and B. Picton. 2017. Polyphyly of the traditional family Flabellinidae affects a major group of Nudibranchia: aeolidacean taxonomic reassessment with descriptions of several new families, genera, and species (Mollusca, Gastropoda). ZooKeys 717: 1-139.
    Korshunova, T. A., A. V. Martynov, T. Bakken, J. Evertsen, K. Fletcher, I. W. Mundiata, H. Saito, K. Lundin, M. Schrödl, and B. Picton. 2017. Corrigenda: Polyphyly of the traditional family Flabellinidae affects a major group of Nudibranchia: aeolidacean taxonomic reassessment with descriptions of several new families, genera, and species (Mollusca, Gastropoda). ZooKeys 725: 139–141.
    Long, S. J. 2006. Bibliography of Opisthobranchia 1554-2000. Bayside Books & Press, Tustin, CA, U.S.A. 672p.
    Luque, A. A. 1983. Contribución al conocimiento de los gasterópodos marinos de las costas de Málaga y Granada I. Opistobranquios (1). Iberus 3: 51-74.
    Luque, A. A. 1986. Contribución al conocimiento de los gasterópodos marinos de las costas de Málaga y Granada. Tesis Doctoral. Universidad Complutense de Madrid.
    Martínez-Chacón, M. 2018. Nudibranquios de la isla de Tarifa, pequeñas joyas del estrecho de Gibraltar. Junta de Andalucía. Consejería de Medio Ambiente y Ordenación del Territorio.
    McDonald, G. 2009. Bibliographia Nudibranchia. 2nd Online Edition, Annotated. 1072 pp  Institute of Marine Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz. (
    Menéndez, J. L., and J. Oliveros. 2004. Flabellina babai accessed through: AsturNatura on 2015-02-05. (
    Moro, L., J. Ortea, and J. J. Bacallado. 2016. Nuevas citas y nuevos datos anatómicos de las babosas marinas (Mollusca: Heterobranchia) de las islas Canarias y su entorno. Revista de la Academia Canaria de las Ciencias., 48: 9-52.
    Ocaña Martín, A., L. Sánchez Tocino, S. López González, and F. Viciana Martín. 2000. Guía submarina de invertebrados no artrópodos. Comares, Granada.
    Ortea, J., and J. Espinosa. 1998. Estudio de nueve especies del género Flabellina Voight, 1834 (Mollusca: Nudibranchia) colectadas en Angola, Cabo Verde, Costa Rica, Cuba y Portugal, con la descripción de tres especies nuevas. Avicennia 8-9: 135-148.
    Ozturk, B., A. Dogan, B. Bitlis-Bakir, and A. Salman. 2014. Marine Molluscs of the Turkish Coasts: An Updated Checklist. Tübitak, Turkish Journal of Zoology 38.
    Pontes, M., J. M. Dacosta, A. Ollé i Callau, and L. Aguilar. 1996. M@re Nostrum. (

    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 (2021) "Luisella babai" in OPK-Opistobranquis. Published: 17/05/2012. Accessed: 23/01/2021. Available at (

To copy this cite click on the right button.