Chromodoris splendida

Image courtesy of Dave Mullins
Gneering Shoals, Mooloolaba, Queensland, Australia
Nikon Coolpix 5000 in Subal Housing with twin Inon Z220 strobes.
Copyright 2011, Dave Mullins

Chromodoris splendida (Angas, 1864)

The colouring and marking of Chromodoris splendida make it possibly one of the most conspicuous of nudibranchs in our part of the world. I even recall spotting one once, down on the seabed from the surface prior to descending for a dive in 12 metres of water.

It is a large nudibranch of up to 65 mm in length but most often seen in the 30 to 40 mm range. The bright white of the mantle trimmed around the margin with golden yellow and marked with blood-red blotches has caused us to dub it "strawberries and cream". This is just a private nickname I might add and not a common name. The similarly blood-red rhinophores and white gills with red streaks on the axes complete the visual proclamation.

The currently reported distribution is quite limited extending only from New South Wales to southern Queensland on the east coast of Australia and is considered a common species in those coastal waters. In its southern range Chromodoris splendida displays a more spotted arrangement of mantle markings compared to the large single or several smaller blotches of the more northern residents. This spotting gives it a somewhat similar appearance to a number of other dorids including Chromodoris daphne and Mexichromis festiva that have a much similar distribution. This is quite possibly an example of aposematic colouration whereby a group of animals display similar colour and pattern in order to "teach" potential predators, mainly fish, that they possess distasteful/poisonous mantle glands.

Just to confuse us even more though, we have also found specimens of C. splendida devoid of any red markings at all on the mantle, and I suppose we could call them "spotless". These plain variants are not particularly common. At times individuals will also turn up with markings that are orange rather than blood-red and this paler colour usually extends to the gills and rhinophores as well.

Chromodoris splendida feeds upon a number of different sponges of the Darwinella genus that are mainly pink or yellow and also a Dictyodendrilla sp. that is very dark in colour.

This species lays a bright yellow egg coil with extra-capsular yolk and is believed to develop lecithotrophicly whereby the larvae only spend a very short time in the plankton and do not feed there.

We live in the hope of one day finding a specimen with a red blotch upon its mantle in the shape of Australia.

Cobb & Willan 2006. Undersea Jewels, ABRS, Canberra
Rudman & Bergquist 2007. A review of feeding specificity in the sponge-feeding Chromodorididae, Molluscan Research 27(2): 60-88
Rudman 1998 - 2008. Chromodoris splendida, Factsheet & Related Messages, Sea Slug Forum, Australian Museum, Sydney.

Dave Mullins
Queensland, Australia
Nov., 2011
Send Dave email at

Gary Cobb and Dave Mullins
on location in Queensland, Australia


This second App in the series covers the Eastern Pacific and is now available from iTunes. Marine scientists, naturalists, students, divers and the world-wide community of Nudibranch enthusiasts will be able to view 420 species that live in the Eastern Pacific region from Alaska to the tip of Chile.

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8. Navigation around the App is extremely fast, logical and intuitive. The Eastern Pacific App is a stand alone Application built for the Apple iPhone and does not require an Internet connection. It can be purchased from the iTunes App store. Gary would like to thank all those underwater photographers who responded to The Slug Site call and kindly gave of their wonderful images to make this App possible.

Gary is currently working on Four (4) new Nudibranch ID Apps that together will cover the entire world.

For more information see the Nudibranch ID App Website or send Gary email at or send Gary email at

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