Felimare picta

Felimare picta is a species belonging to the family Chromodorididae, which in turn is included in the suborder Nudibranchia, belonging to the phylum of molluscs. It is the largest nudibranch species in the Mediterranean Sea, being also present in the Atlantic Ocean (from the Azores to the Gulf of Mexico). Its maximum length reaches 19 cm. Felimare picta specimens are found in rather poorly lit and rocky areas up to 50 meters deep. Its distribution includes the Mediterranean Sea, as well as the western Atlantic Ocean (Florida and the Gulf of Mexico), as well as the eastern Atlantic Ocean (from Angola to Cape Verde, the Canary Islands, Madeira, the Azores and the Iberian Peninsula).

The body of Felimare picta is elongated, tall and with a narrow mantle that overlaps the foot on its sides. In the front part of the body, it widens slightly at the level of the head. In the posterior dorsal part, there are 11 relatively narrow gills that form a gill crown.

There are two chromatic variants within this species. The most abundant consists of a whitish body color, slightly bluish, with numerous more or less elongated yellow spots, both on the sides of the body and on the back. The second variant adopts an intense blue body coloration, on which yellow spots also stand out, but less numerous than in the previous variant. The rhinophores of Felimare picta adopt the base coloration depending on the chromatic variant, being in all cases the upper extremities of intense bluish color. We also note that the upper two thirds of the rhinophores have a lamellar structure.

The diet of Felimare picta is mainly composed of sponges, especially those of the genus Ircina as Ircina fasciculata, or other species of sponges such as Dysidea fragilis and Pleraplysilla spinifera.

As is usual in molluscs, and especially in nudibranchs, Felimare picta is a hermaphroditic species, that is, a single individual behaves as both male and female at the same time. Despite this, however, self-fertilization is not common, but they reproduce by cross-fertilization with another specimen, both being fertilized respectively. The breeding season takes place from late spring and during the summer months, making large clutches consisting of a spiral ribbon about 5-6 millimeters high, inside which we will distinguish some small orange eggs.

Another characteristic of this species is that when they feel in danger or are disturbed, glands located around the rhinophores and gills secrete a substance known as longifolin, which allows them to scare away possible predators.


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