Sabellaria alcocki Gravier, 1906, described for the Indian Ocean, should not be present in the Mediterranean area. Though S. spinulosa alcocki, a Mediterranean variety, can be well-distinguished from S. alcocki, it has recently been referred to as S. alcocki. Thus, S. alcocki appears in the Italian coast checklist. The recent finding of S. spinulosa reefs along the southern Adriatic coast, the first report of these biogenic constructions in the Mediterranean area, allowed us to compare its morphological variability with that of S. alcocki. A morphometric analysis of the opercular paleae showed a great deal of intrapopulation, size-independent variation, which cannot justify the existence of varieties within S. spinulosa. Moreover, the analysis of post-settlement development showed that opercular features change during individual growth. Recently settled individuals resemble S. alcocki, while the more advanced life stages become closer to S. spinulosa. Accordingly, we hypothesize that part of the erroneous Mediterranean records of S. alcocki could correspond to specimens of S. spinulosa at different stages of development.