Polycera quadrilineata

Polycera quadrilineata (O. F. Müller, 1776)

Polycera quadrilineata by Enric Madrenas
















































Polycera quadrilineata  (O. F. Müller, 1776)

 Classification according to Bouchet et al. (2017)
Taxonomic source: World Register of Marine Species (AphiaID: 140838).

  • Doris cornuta Rathke, 1806
  • Doris flava Montagu, 1804
  • Doris marplatensis Franceschi, 1928
  • Doris ornata (d’Orbigny, 1837)
  • Doris ornata var. marplatensis Franceschi, 1928
  • Doris quadrilineata O. F. Müller, 1776 (original)
  • Polycera lineatus Risso, 1826
  • Polycera mediterranea Bergh, 1879
  • Polycera nigrolineata Dautzenberg & Durouchoux, 1913
  • Polycera nigropicta Ihering, 1885
  • Polycera ornata d’Orbigny, 1837
  • Polycera quadrilineata mediterranea Bergh, 1879
  • Polycera quadrilineata nigrolineata Dautzenberg & Durouchoux, 1913
  • Polycera quadrilineata nigropicta Ihering, 1886
  • Polycera salamandra Labbé, 1931
  • Polycera typica W. Thompson, 1840
  • Polycera varians M. Sars, 1840
  • Thecacera capitata Alder & Hancock, 1854

This species can reach up to about 40 mm in length, although Mediterranean specimens are not larger than 20 mm. The body surface has small conical protuberances, generally pigmented yellow. The body has a whitish background colouration, semitransparent in some areas, which could be more or less darkened by an ash or almost black coloured pigment to a greater or lesser extent deppending on the specimens. Very characteristically there are also longitudinal yellow lines on the back and sides of the body, that could be continuous or discontinuous, a mid-dorsal line running from the gill down to the head, passing between the rhinophores, and two or four lateral lines. The mid-dorsal yellow line continues behind the gill on another line that reaches the tip of the tail. The cephalic veil has 4 yellow fingerlike extensions. The rhinophores are semitransparent at the base and yellow in the laminar zone, which has up to 15 lamellae. Gill consists of 7-9 little developed leaves that are simply contractile. The gill leaves have a whitish background color, darkened in their central axis and with yellow tips. On each side of the gill there is a whitish tentaculiform process with a yellow tip. The foot is whitish and has two short yellow lobes in the front end. The mouth is surrounded by two rounded mouth lobes.

This relatively common species is usually located in dimly-lit rock walls with abundant bryozoans, on which it feeds. It can also be found under stones and juveniles could be found among algae. Many bryozoan species have been cited as substrate or food, like the genus Bowerbankia, Bugula, Callopora, Cellaria, Celleporella, Electra, Furcellaria, Membranipora, Microporella and Schizomavella, among others (McDonald & Nybakken, 2001). Specimens of P. quadrilineata are often parasitized by copepod crustaceans. The spawn is formed by a transparent ribbon coiled in a ring, about 2 mm high, containing white eggs about 80 microns wide, set very tightly.


  • Polycera. From Greek “polys”, many + “keras”, horn.
  • Quadrilineata. Four lined. From Latin “quadrus”, square, derived from “quattuor”, four + “līnea”, a string, linen thread, a fishing line, a plumbline, a bowstring, a line (geometry), an outline, sketch, a boundary line, and other similar meanings.

This European species is distributed from the Atlantic coasts of Northern Europe (British Isles, North Sea) to the Mediterranean Sea. In the Iberian Peninsula it has been cited in all coastal areas, also in Canary Islands, Azores and Madeira (Cervera et al., 2004). In the Catalan coast it has been found in several localities of the Costa Brava like Cala Sant Antoni, Es Caials, Cadaques, Roses, L’Escala, Llafranc, Aiguafreda, Aiguablava, Tossa de Mar, Blanes and Cala Sant Francesc, in the southern coast of Catalonia it has been found in the port of Vallcarca (Garraf), Sitges, Cubelles and Torredembarra.

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

References for the species: Polycera quadrilineata

    Cantabria: Hidalgo (1917), Fez (1974), Ortea (1977c). Galicia: Ortea (1977c), Urgorri and Besteiro (1983, 1984). Portugal: De Oliveira (1895), Hidalgo (1916), Nobre (1932), García-Gómez et al. (1991), Calado et al. (1999, 2003). Andalucía (Atl.): García-Gómez (1982). Gibraltar: García-Gómez (1982), García-Gómez et al. (1989), Megina and Cervera (2003). Andalucía (Med.): Luque (1983, 1986), Templado, Luque and Moreno (1988), Schick (1998), Sánchez Tocino, Ocaña and García (2000a), Ocaña et al. (2000). Levante: De Fez (1974), Templado (1982b, 1983, 1984), Marín and Ros (1987), Templado, Luque and Moreno (1988). Catalunya: Ros (1975, 1978b), Ballesteros (1980, 1985), Pereira & Ballesteros (1982), Ávila (1993), Giribet & Peñas (1997), Domènech et al. (2002), M@re Nostrum [La Foradada (Portbou) 10/2001, Illa Mateua (L'Escala) 3/2008]. Baleares: Ballesteros, Álvarez and Mateo (1986), Dekker (1986), Wirtz and Debelius (2003). Canarias: Pérez Sánchez, Ortea and Bacallado (1990), Pérez Sánchez, Bacallado and Ortea (1991), Ortea et al. (1996, 2001), Moro et al. (2003). Madeira: Wirtz (1995b, 1999), Ortea et al. (1996), Wirtz and Debelius (2003). Azores: Ortea et al. (1996), Wirtz (1998), Morton et al. (1998), Ávila et al. (1998), Ávila (2000), Malaquias (2001), Wirtz and Debelius (2003).

    General: Alder, 1841:338; Alder & Hancock, 1851a:fam. 1, pl. 22[P]; Bergh, 1879e:602; 1883:135; Brown & Picton, 1979:13; Cattaneo-Vietti, Chemello, & Giannuzzi-Savelli, 1990:107[P]; Colgan, 1911:24; 1914:199; Dahl, 1925:163; Elmhirst, 1908:228; Farran, 1909:16; Forbes & Hanley, 1850-1851:576; Garstang, 1889:182; Gosliner, 1987b:97[P]; Haefelfinger, 1960:101; Hayward, Wigham, & Yonow, 1990:716; Herdman & Clubb, 1890:133; 1892a:133; Hoffmann, 1926:12; Hunnam & Brown, 1975:147; Ihering, 1886:16; Jeffreys, 1869:75; Labbe, 1931:21; Larsen, 1925:24; Lemche, 1938:22; 1941a:24; Loyning, 1927:250; Luque, 1983:62; Mazzarelli, 1903:295; Meyer & Mobius, 1865:55; Misuri, 1917:76; Nobre, 1931:47; 1936:32; 1938-40:59; Nordsieck, 1972:56; Odhner, 1939:38; Picton & Morrow, 1994:72[P]; Pruvot-Fol, 1951:31; 1953b:84; 1954b:315; Riedl, 1970:427; 1983:331; Rolan-Alvarez & Rolan, 1990:92; Schmekel, 1970:201; Schmekel & Portmann, 1982:111[P]; Swennen, 1987:31; Tchang Si, 1931a:114; Thompson, 1856:274; Thompson, 1976:[P]; 1988:204; Thompson & Brown, 1976:110; 1984:68[P]; Tolmer, 1929:30; Vayssiere, 1901a:63; 1913a:341; Vicente, 1967:154:Wagele & Schminke, 1987:[P]

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


    Western Mediterranean:3 out of 5 stars
    Eastern Mediterranean:0 out of 5 stars
    Atlantic Ocean:0 out of 5 stars

This chart displays the monthly observation probability for Polycera quadrilineata based on our own records.


Polycera quadrilineata by Pascal Girard
Veliger larva of Polycera quadrilineata by Allan Rowat


More pictures


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Further reading

Cite this article as:

Ballesteros, Manuel, Enric Madrenas, Miquel Pontes (2012-2020) "Polycera quadrilineata" in OPK-Opistobranquis, Published: 15/05/2012, Accessed: 04/07/2020 at (https://opistobranquis.info/en/nym6l)

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