Plocamopherus maderae

Plocamopherus maderae (Lowe, 1842)

Plocamopherus maderae @ Gran Canaria by Aketza Herrero
















































Plocamopherus maderae  (R. T. Lowe, 1842)

 Classification according to Bouchet et al. (2017)
Taxonomic source: World Register of Marine Species (AphiaID: 141711).

  • Peplidia maderae Lowe, 1842

This is a spectacular nudibranch as it can reach more than 50 mm in length. The initial morphological description of the species described it as an orange or yellowish-orange nudibranch, with numerous small dark brown spots throughout the body and, in a less defined way, patched orange spots. In young specimens, the body color is translucent yellow to reddish-brown, similar to the color pattern of Thecacera pennigera (Ortea et al., 1996). The cephalic veil has 6-8 short, branched digitations. The rhinophores are coloured similar to the body, have lamellae in the upper half and a tapered basal stem. The edge of the mantle has three pairs of branched papillae, two pairs located in front of the gill and the third pair located just behind the gill; these papillae have a white or slightly pink pigment that may also appear on the sides of the body and tail. The tail is robust, long and flat, and has a dorsal keel that the animal can use for swimming. The gills are large, of the same color of the body, they are slightly branched and erect.

This species is capable of swimming by using its tail and also by flexing the body laterally (Newcomb et al, 2012). This nudibranch is typically nocturnal, hiding under rocks in shallow water during the day (Lowe, 1842; Eliot, 1906; Ortea et al, 1992;. Palomar et al, 2014). The most important feature of this species is its bioluminescence. Throughout the posterior midline, from the back edge of the notum to the tip of the tail, it has a line that emits phosphorescent light flashes when the individual is disturbed or swims away. The edges of the gills have the same effect as do the lateral papillae, emitting powerful luminescence flashes when the individual is disturbed. This bioluminescence is intrinsic, which means that the light output depends on the animal’s own biochemical processes without symbiotic association with bacteria. Another bioluminiscent species is Kaloplocamus ramosus, whose chemical bioluminescence reaction takes place within the luminescent cells or photophores (intracellular luminescence), while in the species Plocamopherus maderae, chemical luminescent chemical reaction occurs outside the cells (extracellular luminescence) (Valles et al., 2006). The most consistent explanation for this bioluminescence occurring only when the animal is disturbed is, according to Wilbur and Yonge (1966), to temporarily distract potential predators. However, based on personal observations, bioluminescence is often seen during night dives in individuals that were not being disturbed, so it could be a communication system between individuals of the same species for breeding purposes. The spawn is a ribbon wound up in a spiral with 5 turns and orange eggs (Medslugs).


  • Plocamopherus. From Greek “plokamos”, hair tress + “-pherus”, from Latin “fero”, a combining form meaning “bearing”, “producing”, “yielding”, “containing”, “conveying” used in the formation of compound words.
  • Maderae, from Madeira.

This species was first described in Madeira, and then only registered in the Canary Islands (Cervera et al, 2004) and Cape Verde (Eliot, 1906), so it was believed that its distribution seemed to be limited to the biogeographical unit known as Macaronesic Region, however, recent records at Eivissa and Granada (Spain) and at Corsica seem to indicate this species is beginning to colonize the Mediterranean.

Known georeferenced records of the species: Plocamopherus maderae
: 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 monthly observation probability for Plocamopherus maderae based on our own records.



More pictures


    Abraham PS. 1876. Note sur un nouveau mollusque nudibranche du genre Plocamopherus. Bulletin de la Societe Zoologique de France 1:287-290.
    Bacallado JJ, Ortea J, Moro L, et al. 2008. Inventario de los moluscos de la marina de Arrecife, Lanzarote. Canarias Conservación.:1–32. Available from
    Ballesteros M, Madrenas E, Pontes M. 2023. OPK - Opistobranquis. Available from
    Bergh LSR. 1879. Beitrage zu einer Monographie der Polyceraden, I. Verhandlungen der koniglich-kaiserlich Zoologisch-botanischen Gesellschaft in Wien (Abhandlungen) 29:599- 652, pls. 9-14.
    Bergh LSR. 1877. Malacologische Untersuchungen, In: Reisen im Archipel der Philippinen von Dr Carl Gottfried Semper. Wissenschaftliche Resultate. Band 2, Theil 2, Heft 11; pp 429-494, pls. 54-57.
    Bergh LSR. 1890. Die Nudibranchien des “Sunda-Meeres”. Malacologische Untersuchungen. In:  Reisen im Archipel der Philippinen von Dr. Carl Gottfried Semper. Zweiter Theil.
    Bergh LSR. 1883. Beitrage zu einer Monographie der Polyceraden. III. Verhandlungen der koniglich-kaiserlich Zoologisch-botanischen Gesellschaft in Wien (Abhandlungen) 33:135- 180, pls. 6-10.
    Bergh R. 1892. System der Nudibranchiaten Gasteropoden. Malacologische Untersuchungen. In: Reisen im Archipel der Philippinen von Dr. Carl Gottfried Semper. Zweiter Theil#Wissenschaftliche Resultate. Band 7, Theil 5. [pp. 1–51, pls 1–4, Mar. 1897; pp. 53–115, pls 5–8, Dec. 1897; pp. 117–158, pls 9–12, Nov. 1898; pp. 159–208, pls 13–16, 27 Mar. 1900; pp. 209–256, pls 17–20, 29 Jan. 1901; pp. 257–312, pls. 21–24, 15 Oct. 1901; pp. 313–382, pls 25–29, 7 Oct. 1902].
    Cervera JL, Templado J, García-Gómez JC, et al. 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 JL, Calado G, Gavaia C, et al. 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.
    Debelius H, Kuiter RH. 2007. Nudibranchs of the world. Frankfurt: IKAN- Unterwasserarchiv. 360 pp. p.
    Eliot CNE. 1906. Report upon a collection of Nudibranchiata from the Cape Verde islands, with notes by C. Crossland. Proceedings of the Malacological Society of London l7(3): 131-159.
    Eliot CNE. 1910. A monograph of the British nudibranchiate Mollusca: with figures of the species; Figures by the late Joshua Alder and the late Albany Hancock, and others. Ray Society, London.
    Garcia FJ, Bertsch H. 2009. Diversity and distribution of the Gastropoda Opisthobranchia from the Atlantic Ocean: A global biogeographic approach. Scientia Marina. 73(1):153–160.
    Long SJ. 2006. Bibliography of Opisthobranchia 1554-2000. Bayside Books & Press, Tustin, CA, U.S.A. 672p.
    Lowe RT. 1842. Description of a new dorsibranchiate gasteropod discovered at Madeira. Proc. Zool. Soc. London, pt. 10; pp 51-53.
    Malaquías MAE. 2000. Additions to the knowledge of the opisthobranch molluscs of Selvagens Islands, SE Atlantic, Portugal. Arquipélago. supplement 2:89–97.
    Malaquias MA, Calado GJP. 1997. The malacological fauna of Salvage Islands - 1. Opisthobranch Molluscs. Bol. Mus. Mun. Funchal, 49(281): 149-170.
    Malaquias MAE, Cervera JL, López-González PJ. 2001. The Opisthobranch Molluscs from Porto Santo Island (Madeira Archipelago, Northeastern Atlantic Ocean). Iberus 19 (1): 75-82.
    Marcus E d. BR. 1979. Campagne de la Calypso au large de cotes Atlantiques de l’Amerique du sud (1961-1962). I. 31. Mollusca Opisthobranchia. Annales de l’Institut Oceanographique, Monaco 55(suppl):131-137.
    McDonald G. 2009. Bibliographia Nudibranchia. 2nd Online Edition, Annotated. 1072 pp  Institute of Marine Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz. Available from
    Moro L, Martín Esquivel JL, Garrido Sanahuja MJ, et al. 2003. Lista de especies marinas de Canarias (algas, hongos, plantas y animales). Consejería de Política Territorial y Medio Ambiente del Gobierno de Canarias. 248 p.
    Newcomb JM, Sakurai A, Lillvis JL, et al. 2012. Homology and homoplasy of swimming behaviors and neural circuits in the Nudipleura (Mollusca, Gastropoda, Opisthobranchia). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 109:10669–10676.
    Nobre A. 1937. Fauna marinha de Portugal. 1° Aditamento. Mem Mus. zool. Univ. Coimbra, (1)99: 1-30.
    Nordsieck F. 1972. Die miozäne Molluskenfauna von MisteWinterswijk NL (Hemmoor). Stuttgart (Fischer): 187 pp, 9 tabs, 3 figs, 33 pls.
    Nordsieck F. 1972. Die europäischen Meeresschnecken : (Opisthobranchia mit Pyramidellidae, Rissoacea) : vom Eismeer bis Kapverdem, Mittelmeer und Schawarzes Meer. Stuttgart: Gustav Fischer. XIII, 327 p. p.
    Ortea J, Moro L. 2019. Las babosas marinas de las islas de Cabo Verde en el tiempo: Cronología de su descubrimiento. Avicennia. 25:1–36.
    Ortea J, Pérez-Sánchez JMP. 1992. Captura de Plocamopherus maderae (Lowe, 1842) (Mollusca: Nudibranchiata) en los Archipiélagos de Canarias y Cabo Verde. Actas del V Simposio Ibérico de Estudios del Bentos Marino 2: 229-235.
    Ortea J, Rolán E. 1989. Descripcion de una nueva especie del genero Polycera Cuvier, 1816  (Mollusca: Nudibranchia) del archipielago de Cabo Verde. Publicações Ocasionais da Sociedade  Portuguesa de Malacologia (14):23-28, 1 pl.
    Ortea J, L. Moro MC, Bacallado JJ. 2003. Resultados Científicos del proyecto “Macaronesia 2000” Chinijo-2002: Moluscos Opistobranquios. Revista de la Academia Canaria de Ciencias 14 (3-4): 165-180.
    Ortea JA, Moro L, Bacallado JJ, et al. 2001. Catálogo actualizado de los Moluscos Opistobranquios de las Islas Canarias. Revista de la Academia Canaria de Ciencias. 12(3–4):105–136.
    Ortea JA, Moro L, Bacallado JJ, et al. 1996. Nuevos datos sobre la fauna de doridos farenobranquios (Gastropoda, Nudibranchia) de las Islas Canarias. Revista de la Academia Canaria de Ciencias 8 (2, 3 and 4): 125-138.
    Palomar G, Pola M, García-Vázquez E. 2014. First molecular phylogeny of the subfamily Polycerinae (Mollusca, Nudibranchia, Polyceridae). Helgol. Mar. Res., 68:143-153.
    Pola M, Cervera JL, Gosliner JL. 2007. Phylogenetic relationships of Nembrothinae  (Mollusca: Doridacea: Polyceridae) inferred from morphology and mitochondrial DNA. Molecular  Phylogenetics & Evolution 43(3):726-742.
    Pola M, Cervera LJ, Gosliner TM. 2008. Description of the first Roboastra species (Nudibranchia, Polyceridae, Nembrothinae) from the Western Atlantic. Bulletin of Marine Science, 83(2), 391-399.
    Pruvot-Fol A. 1954. Mollusques opisthobranches. Paris, France: Paul Lechevalier (Faune de France). 460 p.
    Rolán E. 2005. Malacological Fauna From The Cape Verde Archipelago. Part 1, Polyplacophora and Gastropoda. ConchBooks, Frankfurt, Germany.
    Rudman W.B. et al. 1998 2010. Plocamopherus maderae accessed through: Sea Slug Forum on 2014-12-14. Available from
    Silva JP. 2008 2014. Plocamopherus maderae accessed through: Hypselodoris, Lesmas do Mar on 2014-12-21. Available from
    Valles Y. 2002. Taxonomy and phylogeny of Kaloplocamus and Plocamopherus and their relationships with other phanerobranchs. Master Thesis. San Francisco State University. San Francisco, EE UU: 266 pp. (Unpublished.).
    Valles Y, Gosliner TM. 2006. Shedding light onto the genera (Mollusca: Nudibranchia) Kaloplocamus and Plocamopherus with description of new species belonging to these unique bioluminescent dorids. The Veliger 48(3): 178-205.
    Watson RB. 1897. On the marine Mollusca of Madeira; with descriptions of thirty-five new species, and an index-list of all the known sea-dwelling species of that island. Journal of the Linnean Society of London, Zoology 26: 233-329, pl. 19, 20.
    Wirtz P. 1995. Unterwasserführer Madeira, Kanarean, Azoren. Stuttgart, Germany: Delius Klasing, Edition Naglschmid. 247 p.
    Wirtz P. 1999. Opisthobranch Molluscs from the archipelago of Madeira. Vita Marina. 46(1–2):1–18.
    Wirtz P, Debelius H. 2003. Mediterranean and Atlantic invertebrate guide. Hackenheim, Germany: ConchBooks.
    WoRMS Editorial Board. 2023. World Register of Marine Species. WoRMS. Available from

    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:

Herrero, A., Ballesteros, M., Madrenas, E. & Pontes, M. (2023) "Plocamopherus maderae" in OPK-Opistobranquis. Published: 06/12/2014. Accessed: 04/03/2024. Available at (

To copy this cite click on the right button.