The Salento peninsula is a portion of the Italian mainland separating two distinct Mediterranean basins, the Ionian and the Adriatic seas. Several authors have studied the marine Heterobranchia (Mollusca, Gastropoda) fauna composition living in the Ionian Sea, but to date further knowledge regarding this interesting group of mollusks is still needed. Recent studies have corroborated the peculiarity of the Mediterranean Sea showing high levels of endemism and cryptic diversity. On the other hand, marine sea slugs have been revealed to be important indicators of the marine ecosystem’s health, due to their species-specific diet that consist of a vast variety of sessile and benthic invertebrates. A baseline study of the marine Heterobranchia diversity is therefore a necessary step to reveal the hidden diversity and to monitor the possible presence of alien species. The present study shows results from approximately 600 scientific dives carried out during a nine-year period in all of the main submarine habitats of the studied area, while accounting for the marine Heterobranchia from both the Ionian and Adriatic Seas. With this contribution, the list of marine Heterobranchia inhabiting the Salento Peninsula rises to 160. Furthermore, it also reports, for the first time, the presence of one alien species and three new records for Italian waters. Ecological notes and geographical distribution for each added species are provided together with animal iconography, consisting mainly of in situ photographs, for species identification.
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