Aplysia egg masses as potential fish food

May 31, 2006
From: Philip Bodington

I operate a marine fish hatchery for the Mediterrnaenean Sea Bream (Sparus aurata) and have many sea hares (probably Aplysia punctata ) breeding in my inlet resrvoir tank as well as the outlet settlement lagoon.

I have never observed prdation on the egg massses even though the outlet lagoon is full of various fish species.As I am always looking for alternative sources of nutrition for my broodstock, I plan to get the egg masses analysed for their nutritional profiles.

I was curious to know if there would be a problem with feeding the egg masses in my inlet water to the breeders, or should I expect some adverse reaction due to some protective mechanism.

Are sea hare egg masses ever use in human comsumption?

Locality: Gulf of Corinth, 20cm, Greece, Mediterranean, Spring and Summer. Length: 2cm-7cm

Philip  Bodington


Bodington.P, 2006 (May 31) Aplysia egg masses as potential fish food. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from http://www.seaslugforum.net/find/16723

Dear Phil,
You might like to look out the following publication which reviews a lot of the literature.

  • Johnson, P.M & Willows, A.O.D, (1999) Defense in Sea Hares (Gastropoda, Opisthobranchia, Anaspidea): multiple layers of protection from egg to adult. Marine & Freshwater Behaviour & Physiology, 32: 147-180.

In brief, the few studies that have been done report the egg masses of a number of sea hare species being rejected by crabs and reef fish. However it does not seem to be secondary metabolites from their algal food, or algal pigments which make the eggs distasteful. Basically, what makes them distasteful is a mystery.

There is a message on the Forum [#3047] reporting the eggs being eaten by people in the Philippines, and I am pretty sure Dolabella eggs are eaten in Fiji. See also see Kirsten Benkendorff's message [#3065] summarising the most recent research.

My advice would be that before you spend money on nutritional assays, you should do a simple taste test with the fish. It seems quite likely that they will reject the eggs, no matter how nutritious they are.

Best wishes,
Bill Rudman

Rudman, W.B., 2006 (May 31). Comment on Aplysia egg masses as potential fish food by Philip Bodington. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from http://www.seaslugforum.net/find/16723


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