Hermaea variopicta

Hermaea variopicta (Costa, 1869)

Hermaea variopicta @ L'Escala by Enric Madrenas




































Hermaea variopicta  (A. Costa, 1869)

 Classification according to Bouchet et al. (2017)
Taxonomic source: World Register of Marine Species (AphiaID: 140095).

  • Hermaea polychroma Hesse, 1872
  • Hermaeopsis variopicta Costa A., 1869 (original)

Specimens of this species usually measure between 10 and 15 mm in length but there are reports with a maximum size of 30-40 mm. This is a visually striking species because of its colour: a purple-violet body, more or less dark deppending of the animals. There are many orange, yellow and white elongated spots distributed along the head, rhinophores, back of the body and cerata. These different colour spots are combined in a very complex way with the purple body colour on the head zone, in front of and behind the rhinophores. The rhinophores are auriculate, wider in its middle section and with pointed tips; the dorsal side of each rhinophore features a yellowish-white strip pigmented band emerging from the head. The eyes are very visible at the end of a white area, somewhat behind the base of the rhinophores. Pericardial area, located between the first cerata, is visible because it is pigmented as an “ocellus” (fake eye): a white oval spot encircled by a purple band and externally bordered by an orange band. The cerata are rather flattened, broad in its middle section and with a pointed tip, having the ability to greatly expand, acquiring a rounded shape, and contract; they are coloured as the body but with orange pigmented tips and an opaque white leading edge. The larger cerata are the internal, decreasing their size outwards. The anus is located right ahead of the cardiac area. The foot is white and its front area is widened and rounded.

Because this is a relatively scarce species, few details of its biology are known. It is usually found among rhodophycean algae where, because of its cryptic coloration, often goes unnoticed. It has been cited living and feeding among the following species of algae: Halurus equisetifolius (B. Picton), Solieria chordalis and Plocamium cartilagineum (H. Limouzin). Its spawn is formed by a transparent ribbon 2-3 mm in diameter, sometimes spirally wound, with white eggs.


  • Hermaea. Derived from Hermes, a character from Greek mythology.
  • Variopicta. From Latin “vario-“, fluctuate, change, variegate, vary, waver, mark with contrasting colors + “picta”, colored, decorated, painted.

This is an European species that has been cited in the Atlantic coasts of the British Isles and France, Morocco and the Western Mediterranean. In the Iberian Peninsula it has been observed in all both Atlantic and Mediterranean coastal areas (Cervera et al, 2004), also in the Balearic and Canary Islands. In the Catalan coast it has been cited in Es Caials, L’Escala, Tossa de Mar and Blanes.

Known georeferenced records of the species: Hermaea variopicta
: 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 Hermaea variopicta based on our own records.



More pictures


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Further reading

Cite this article as:

Ballesteros, M., Madrenas, E. & Pontes, M. (2023) "Hermaea variopicta" in OPK-Opistobranquis. Published: 14/05/2012. Accessed: 20/04/2024. Available at (https://opistobranquis.info/en/?p=268)

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