The Tubercular dendrodoris (Dendrodoris tuberculosa) is a dorid nudibranch, a marine gastropod mollusk. They are also known as the Cauliflower Nudibranch.
As nudibranchs go, Tubercular dendrodoris are large, growing up to between 18 to 20 cm in length and 8 to 10 cm in width. They have an elongated oval shape with a frilly edge. The entire mantle is covered in tubercles which vary in shape and size. The lower mantle has distinctive white spots on it and this is the main identifying feature for this species. Colour varies greatly from specimen to specimen and possibly from area to area although there is insufficient evidence on the variation in colour and tubercles to link the colouration back to the environment.
In the image below one can see how effective the tubercles are for camouflage purposes. The overall impression one gains from viewing such a specimen is that of a miniature garden on the move. If not for slight movements it would be extremely difficult to pick them out.
IN THE WILD
Tubercular dendrodoris are not commonly seen during the day in Tanzanian waters. They are nocturnal and usually hide under stones during the day. At night they emerge and feed but their camouflage is excellent and they move quite slowly. This makes it very hard to pick them out.
The Tubercular dendrodoris is found across the Indian ocean and in the west Pacific. They have been seen on rubble areas in Tanzania to depths of 12 meters.
The Tubercular dendrodoris feed mainly on certain species of sponge. They insert a tube into the sponge and emit fluids which partially digest it. This partially digested meal is then sucked into the body for further digestion.
They are simultaneous hermaphrodites and mating takes place by connecting the sexual organs which are on the right hand side of the body. Once the two organs hook up sperm is transfered across to each specimen. Eggs are laid on a solid substrate in a ribbon and when they hatch the larvae become planktonic before growing into adults.
TUBERCULAR DENDRODORIS CLASSIFICATION
(unranked): clade Heterobranchia
- The Reef Guide fishes, corals, nudibranchs & other invertebrates: East and South Coasts of Southern Africa by Dennis King & Valda Fraser