The Holy Grail of Nudibranchs


This absolutely unbelievable species doesn’t even look like an animal, let alone a nudibranch. If we hadn’t found the sheathed rhinophores one would think it was just a string of snot in the water.

Melibe colemani - Lembeh Strait Indonesia Photo by Scubamama

For many nudibranch lovers the “Melibe colemani” is the top of their list on must-see creatures. This critter is so perfectly camouflaged that it is very hard to spot – it lives in the waving polyps of a Xenia family coral (Anthelia) where it hunts tiny organisms by extending its large oral hood.

This Bizarre Melibe is almost entirely transparent with opaque white threads that are visible through the body wall, even the organs can be seen. A very strange underwater creature, the holy grail of nudibranchs. The body looks like a net of branched tubes which are actually interconnected digestive gland tubules occupying most of body and cerata.

Melibe colemani laying eggs - Lembeh Strait Indonesia Photo by Scubamama

It’s easy to see how such a unique slug avoided discovery until recently. The Melibe genus is unique in comprising of active predators versus the typical Nudibranch that feed on sessile inverts. Therefore, this transparent camouflage makes evolutionary sense.

Melibe use an extendable oral hood to catch prey unlike other nudibranchs who mainly feed on sessile or slow moving small animals.

Melibe colemani finished laying eggs - Lembeh Strait Indonesia Photo by Scubamama

Natural history: Little know about the biology of this species.

Size: about 50mm.

Distribution that we know so far: Romblon – Philippines, Lembeh Strait – Indonesia and Mabul – Malaysia

First discover by Neville Coleman at Mabul Island, Malaysia and the first picture was published in 2008 in the Nudibranch Encyclopedia.


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November 16, 2016 |

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