Aeolidia papillosa - food in California

April 25, 2000
From: Cat Darst

Just curious... I have been searching for Aeolidia papillosa off the northern California coast (Bodega Bay) and am having a tough time finding Aeolidia in its "usual" habitat (intertidal) near its "usual prey (Anthopleura elegantissima). There are heaps of Aeolidia in the fouling community. What is it eating there? If I had to guess, I would say bryozoan. Is that possible? Could it be eating hydriod instead? It is ALWAYS on or near the bryozoan and the egg masses are frequently there as well. I am baffled?! Any information would be great!
Cat Darst

Darst, C., 2000 (Apr 25) Aeolidia papillosa - food in California. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

Dear Cat,
I have no idea how experienced you are at identifying A. papillosa so I guess the first question to ask is whether you are sure of your identification? If you could send a photo of your animal on the bryozoan and perhaps an egg ribbon photo, that would help us confirm the identity of your slug and would also be of interest to the many visitors each day to the Forum.

I am not an expert on Aeolidia papillosa, but from the quite extensive literature it seems to be an exclusive feeder on sea anemones, not even showing an interest in hydroids in at least one experiment. Have a look at the page of references on the Biology of Aeolidia papillosa for some of the feeding studies.

After saying that, I guess anything is possible. The only way to be sure would be to observe the animals on the fouling communities either in the field or in an aquarium to see what they really eat. I don't know if you have observed the communities out of water, or immersed, but it is possible that there are sea anemones in the community which only become visible when they extend in water after a period without disturbance.

If anyone from California has an answer please let us know.
Best wishes,
Bill Rudman.

Rudman, W.B., 2000 (Apr 25). Comment on Aeolidia papillosa - food in California by Cat Darst. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from


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