Limacia clavigera

Limacia clavigera (Müller, 1776)

Limacia clavigera @ Lephinchapel, Loch Fyne, Scotland by Jim Anderson
















































Limacia clavigera  (O. F. Müller, 1776)

 Classification according to Bouchet et al. (2017)
Taxonomic source: World Register of Marine Species (AphiaID: 140830).
Taxonomic note: After the paper by Toms et al (2021), the species Limacia clavigera seems to be strictly distributed in Atlantic waters from Norway to the coasts of western Andalusia (Spain), while the specimens found in the Mediterranean, Canary islands, Azores and probably those from Cape Verde would correspond to a different species: Limacia inesae Toms, Pola, von der Heyden & Gosliner, 2021. The South African specimens, so far classified as L.clavigera, would now correspond to one of the four species described in the area (3 of them new to the science): L.jellyi, L.miali, L.langavi or the existing L.lucida which is confirmed as a valid species.


  • Doris clavigera O. F. Müller, 1776 (original)
  • Euplocamus plumosus Thompson, 1840 
  • Tergipes pulcher Johnston, 1834 

This species of nudibranch reaches a size of up to 18 mm in length. The body is coloured white because of small white opaque scores densely distributed throughout the body but in certain areas some internal organs can be seen by transparency. The most characteristic trait for this species are the fingerlike appendages surrounding the whole body, including the anterior margin of the head. These appendices are 18-30 in total, narrow and semitransparent at the base and go widening upwards, with a rounded, yellow or orange end. In some specimens, the smaller ones with a smaller number of tubercles, these have a more or less regular size, while in the bigger specimens the tubercles are usually of different sizes. These tubercles have a finely tuberculate or spiny surface and the tubular structure that runs inside and can be seen by transparency. In the back of the animal there are also yellow or orange pigmented rounded tubercles and sometimes they are aligned forming a dorsal ridge in the middle, and there may also be other tubercles at both sides. On the side walls of the body usually there are also orange or yellow aligned tubercles, somewhat smaller than the dorsal ones. Rhinophores are semitransparent the base and have from 10 to 11 lamellae on the tip, the first 3-4 lamellae are coloured white while the uppermost are coloured yellow or orange. Rhinophores are fully retractile and their base is surrounded by a sheath with a smooth whitish upper edge . The gill consists of 3 bi or tripinnate leaves, semitransparent at the base and the rachis, and the distal lamellae coloured yellow or orange; on small specimens, gill leaves can be completely white. The foot is white and rounded ahead, with no oral palps and the tail is pigmented with a medium yellow or orange wide dorsal band.

Limacia clavigera lives in dimly illuminated rocky walls with an abundance of sessile invertebrates and under rocks. It has been cited for numerous species of bryozoans, some of which may be this species food, as Aetea truncata, Caberea boryi, Celleporina hassalli, Chorizopora brongniarti, Cryptosula pallasiana, Electra pilosa, Escharella immersa, Escharina vulgaris, Hippodiplosia spp., Pentapora foliacea, Membranipora membranacea, Microporella ciliata, Parasmittina raigii, Porella concinna, Savignella lafonti, Schismopora avicularis,, Schizomavella spp., Schizobrachiella sanguinea, Schizoporella unicornis, Smittina reticulata and Umbonula littoralis (McDonald & Nybakken, 1999). The spawn consists of a ribbon coiled in a flat spiral with several turns and white eggs.


  • Limacia. From Latin word “limax”, slug, viscous.
  • Clavigera. From Latin “clava”, which means mace or club, and “gerere”, to bring, “to carry sticks, clubs or truncheons”.

It is a species that lives on all Atlantic European coasts, from Norway to the coasts of Southern Spain, where it is sympatric with Limacia inesae. Specimens found in the rest of the Mediterranean Sea, the Canary Islands, Madeira and Azores correspond to a different species: Limacia inesae Toms, Pola, Von der Heyden & Gosliner, 2021.

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

Similar species
Limacia iberica, very similar, with about 50 processes on the edge of the back in the shape of a mace and finished in a white tip, not orange, shorter tail, rhinophores with more than 17 laminae, back very spicy and with more tubercles than L. clavigera. Limacia inesae, very similar, smaller (ca. 10 mm), present in the Mediterranean, the Canary Islands, Madeira and the Azores.


    Western Mediterranean: ★★☆☆☆
    Eastern Mediterranean: ★☆☆☆☆
    Atlantic Ocean: ★★☆☆☆

This chart displays the monthly observation probability for Limacia clavigera based on our own records.

More pictures


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Further reading

Cite this article as:

Ballesteros, M., Madrenas, E. & Pontes, M. (2023) "Limacia clavigera" in OPK-Opistobranquis. Published: 15/05/2012. Accessed: 20/04/2024. Available at (

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