Hermaea cantabra

Hermaea cantabra  Caballer & Ortea, 2015

Hermaea cantabra @ Isla de la Torre, Santander, Cantabria, Spain 22-01-2004 by Manuel Caballer




































Hermaea cantabra  Caballer & Ortea, 2015

 Classification according to Bouchet et al. (2017)
Taxonomic source: World Register of Marine Species (AphiaID: 865550).
Taxonomic note: Prior to the description of H. cantabra, any Hermaeidae with reddish pigmentation in the digestive tract and auriculated rhinophores, captured in European waters, was automatically determined as Hermaea bifida (Montagu, 1815). However, a more detailed study of specimens captured in northern Spain (Caballer, 2007) showed that these animals had characters that could not be attributed to H. bifida in any way, such as having a typical and complex pattern of red bands in the epidermis, digestive ramifications in the cerata not bifurcated at the distal end and radular teeth shaped like an stylet, without lateral expansions.

The different specimens found measure between 4 and 5 mm in length, with a maximum size of 9 mm so far. The body is narrow and elongated. The body is hyaline white, translucent, the reddish brown or light brown digestive gland visible through the tegument. The auriculate rhinophores have a more or less rounded upper lobe, larger than the lower lobe, they are of the same color as the body and have whitish granules in their distal area and at the base. There is a fine reddish brown line in the posterior area of ​​the rhinophores that begins in the distal third of them, runs through its base and goes backwards, passing between the eyes, where it disappears. The eyes are located slightly behind the base of the rhinophores. On the back, the cardiac area has a white triangular area, formed by the accumulation of granules of this color, with reddish brown surface spots at the edges, that are also scattered throughout the dorsum down to the tail. Laterally there is a thin reddish brown band that runs from the head to the middle of the body, with a branch that runs through the rhinophore; this band sometimes joins the area of ​​the head with a thin line that runs along the entire edge of the foot. All the back and sides of the body, also the tail, are covered with red or brown spots of different shapes and sizes. On the back the digestive gland forms two parallel longitudinal reddish brown cords with an irregular path, exceptionally joined in the tail but never in the front end. From these longitudinal cords grow the branches that enter each of the cerata; within these, the digestive branch has a central axis from which simple expansions grow in right or oblique angles. There are 8-9 cerata on each side of the body, translucent and of very different sizes, usually with scattered whitish granules. The more developed cerata are wider in their distal third and narrow at the base, there are also ovoid shaped cerata; there are undefined shape tubercles on the surface of the cerata. The anus is in dorsal position and located right ahead of the cardiac area. The genital orifice is lateral and placed between the base of the rhinophore and the first right cerata. The foot is slightly bilobed.

So far, this species has only been captured from the intertidal to 15 m depth, living on red algae epibiont of Codium tomentosum or on algae of the genus Ceramium (Caballer & Ortea, 2015). This species is generally captured together with its sibling Hermaea paucicirra. The spawn of this species has been described and drawn by Ortea (1977a, as H. bifida) as a white spiral of 2.5 mm in diameter and one and a half turns, containing about 500 eggs. It can easily be confused with Hermaea bifida, but they are distinguished by the longitudinal stripes in the head and along the rhinophores, present in Hermaea cantabra and absent Hermaea bifida.


  • Hermaea. Derived from Hermes, character in Greek mythology.
  • Cantabra. To honor Cantabria, the region where the type locality is, and their inhabitants.

So far, the distribution of this species ranges from the coasts of Asturias, Spain and Cantabria, Spain (Ortea, 1977 a & b; Caballer, 2007; Caballer & Ortea, 2015) to Arcachon Bay in southern France (Salvat, 1968, Ortea, 1977 a & b; Caballer, 2007; Caballer & Ortea, 2015). It is possible that the specimens reported by Salvat (1968) as H. bifida living on Codium fragile are actually individuals of H. cantabra. Existing reports of  Hermaea bifida should be revised to determine if they comply with one or another species. Certain reports (with pictures of living animals) from the Spanish Costa Brava were initially identified as H.bifida.

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


    Western Mediterranean:0 out of 5 stars
    Eastern Mediterranean:0 out of 5 stars
    Atlantic Ocean:1 out of 5 stars

This chart displays the monthly observation probability for Hermaea cantabra based on our own records.

More pictures


    Ballesteros, M., E. Madrenas, and M. Pontes. 2020. OPK - Opistobranquis. (https://opistobranquis.info/).
    Caballer, M. 2007. Catálogo de los sacoglosos y opistobranquios (Mollusca: Gastropoda) de sustrato rocoso de la Bahía de Santander. Revisión de los géneros con especies cripticas.
    Caballer, M., and J. Ortea. 2015. New data on the genus Hermaea (Mollusca: Sacoglossa) in Europe, with the description of a new species from Spain. Rev. Acad. Canar. Cienc., Vol. XXVII, 125-136.
    Flanders Marine Institute. 2018. Maritime Boundaries Geodatabase: Territorial Seas. Maritime Boundaries Geodatabase. (http://www.marineregions.org/).
    Ortea, J. 1977b. Contribución a la actualización de la fauna de Opistobranquios ibéricos; Sacoglosos. Boletín de la estación Central de Ecología 6 (11): 75-91.
    Ortea, J. 1977a. Moluscos marinos gasterópodos y bivalvos del litoral asturiano entre Ribadesella y Ribadeo, con especial atención a la subclase de los opistobranquios. Tesis Doctoral.
    Salvat, F. 1968. Hermaea paucicirra Pruvot-Fol, 1953 Mollusque Gastropode Sacoglossa. Bull Mus Nat Hist Natur Paris 40(2):358-365.
    WoRMS Editorial Board. 2020. World Register of Marine Species. WoRMS. (http://www.marinespecies.org).

    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:

Caballer, Manuel, Manuel Ballesteros, Enric Madrenas, Miquel Pontes (2012-2020) "Hermaea cantabra" in OPK-Opistobranquis, Published: 23/12/2015, Accessed: 24/09/2020 at (https://opistobranquis.info/en/erG6H)

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