Melibe leonina

Photo courtesy of Tracy Clark
Photo taken at La Jolla Shores, La Jolla, Calif

Melibe leonina (Gould, 1852)

California's Lion Nudibranch Melibe leonina has been featured previously as BOW # 188. Because it is such a fascinating creature, Webmaster Mike wanted to run it again with veteran shore's diver Tracy Clark's recent photos.

There are so many things to say about this amazing species because of it's defensive survival tactics and its unique feeding behavior. Melibe has a series of flat plate-shaped "cerata" along its back. Functioning as respiratory organs these appendages can be cast off, or autotomized when disturbed by an uninvited predator or perturbation. Autotomy is something we learned a long time ago, as kids when we tried to catch our first lizard by grabbing it by the tail. Remember what happened - the tail came right off, and the lizard escaped. The same strategy is employed here by Melibe . It drops its cerata and swims off (Oh - did I mention that Melibe is an excellent swimmer) leaving the intruder in a cloud of wiggling fleshy flaps.

Melibe feeds with its expandable oral hood which it open and throws forward much like an Hawai'ian throw net fisherman. The hood has a series on long thin protuberances which it uses to sense food ahead of itself. This species is known to feed on many different species, including some that are good swimmers and crawlers. Melibe hanging out in kelp canopies and off flotsam have been observed feeding on juvenile fish which are attracted to these habitats for cover. Amphipods, copepods and other small crustaceans are also common prey.

The egg mass of Melibe looks quite similar to those of many of the large dorids such as Peltodoris nobilis (previously Anisodoris nobilis). It is a large white coil attached to the substrate on its edge.

I think it is worth mentioning that Tracy's photo above won first place in the advanced division recently at the San Diego Underwater Photographic Society's February meeting. Great shot Tracy!

Dave Behrens
Danville, Calif
Mar. 2004

Tracy Clark at La Jolla Shores

Tracy Clark was certified in 1986, a month after being certified he rented a underwatercamera in Hawaii and was hooked. Tracy is a Public Works Lead Worker . He dives mostly San Diego areas, plus a few trips to Hawaii. He has placed in the PCUPC photo contest, and also the San Diego Unions Nature and Eye photo contest. He has had photos published in the Pacific Diver magazine and also Espacio Profundo. Tracy was also SDUPS Photographer of the Year in 1999.

This is Tracy's unprecented eight time as either a presenter or co-presenter on the Slug Site!

Tracy's pictures was taken with a Nikon N90, Subal housing, two YS-90 strobes.

You will find Tracy at La Jolla Shores almost every weekend and sometimes on Friday.

Send Tracy mail at

Taxonomic information courtesy of:

David W. Behrens

Author: Pacific Coast Nudibranchs
Co-Author Coral Reef Animals of the Indo Pacific
Proprietor of Sea Challengers Natural History Books !

Send Dave mail at

© The Slug Site, Michael D. Miller 2004. All Rights Reserved.