Aeolidia papillosa - Feeding & breeding

September 3, 1999
From: Betsey Hansen

Here are some more of the photos of Aeolidia papillosa that I promised. There is one [upper right] of it eating an anemone, one showing egg laying, and one of an orange egg ribbon.

I've often wondered if their coloration or the color of the eggs is dependent on the color of the anemones that it eats. The anemones vary in color from brown to orange to white.

Betsey Hansen

Hansen, E., 1999 (Sep 3) Aeolidia papillosa - Feeding & breeding. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

Dear Betsy,
Thanks for the photos. It's really good to get photos of animals 'doing things'.

Concerning colour differences. In many opisthobranchs the eggs change colour as the embryo develops in the egg capsule. I am not sure if that is the case with Aeolidia papillosa but it looks as though the eggs being laid are white. Perhaps they go orange as they develop? Have you seen orange ones being laid?

The colour of the animal can also be affected by the colour of the food they eat. I show on another page that many nudibranchs use food pigments as camouflage, and the ceratal colour of many aeolids is dependent on the colour of their food. I am not sure if there is any published accounts but I have seen a related aeolid here in Australia, Aeolidiella foulisi change skin colour depending on the colour of the sea anemones it had to feed on.

One interesting feature you can see in the photo of Aeolidia eating the sea anemone are the white sticky defensive threads or 'acontia'. They sit in sacs at the base of the tentacles and are only brought into action by the anemone when it is under attack. The sticky threads are armed with specialised stinging cells (nematocysts) but they don't seem to be having much effect on the slug.

I have added a list of publications referring to aspects of the biology of Aeolidia papillosa.

Bill Rudman.

Rudman, W.B., 1999 (Sep 3). Comment on Aeolidia papillosa - Feeding & breeding by Betsey Hansen. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from


Aeolidia papillosa

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