Desmopterus papilio Chun, 1889
Phylum Mollusca / Class Gastropoda / Subclass Opisthobranchia / Order Thecosomata / Family Desmopteridae

Here’s one you don’t see everyday – in fact you’ll need to look pretty hard to find this pteropod since it’s elongate body is only 2 to 3 mm long. The pair of wings unite to form a plate with a span up to 6 mm. The rear of the plate has 5 lobes, and each side possesses a distinctive ciliated tentacle. Flapping of the wing plate is used for swimming, typically in a loop pattern when disturbed. Most of the time Desmopterus hangs motionless. The head hangs ventrally, and has a terminal mouth with small jaws and a radula. Reddish-brown spots may be scattered throughout the body, particularly at the margins of the wings. This species lacks a shell, pseudoconch, mantle cavity and mucus producing glands. It ranges throughout tropical and subtropical oceanic waters and may rarely be found as far north as central California. With its diminutive stature, only a careful search of the contents of a plankton tow will reveal its presence. A closely related species, Desmopterus pacificus, is a more common visitor to California waters and more likely to be encountered. Its main distinguishing characteristic is the shorter wing plate tentacles compared to those in D. papilio.

All images in the JelliesZone © David Wrobel and may not be copied or used in any form without permission.

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