Genetic Studies of Sea Slugs

March 26, 2001
From: Eric Diano

Hello. I am a Undergraduate studying molecular and environmental biology at the University of California, Berkeley.

I am taking a molecular and genetics seminar on techniques for studying animal behavior. One assignment is to prepare a mock research grant proposal. I am fascinated by Sea Hares in general and wanted to propose some sort of genetic study of the animals, however I have been unable to find much of this type of research.

Can you point out any genetic research that you know of? Or suggest any type of interesting behavior which could benefit from such an analysis? Doing something like determining relative variablity of populations seems boring.
Eric Diano

Diano, E., 2001 (Mar 26) Genetic Studies of Sea Slugs. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

Dear Eric,
Does your genetics study have to be a study of animal behaviour? I thought the relationship between genes and behaviour, at least in humans, was still a field of continuing debate if not open warfare. To attempt to study it amongst invertebrates, whose behaviour we scarcely understand, may be a bit much. I am sure you are aware of the work of the pioneering work of Kandel and many others who have used Aplysia californica to investigate how brains function and 'learn' and cause 'behaviour' but I don't know of any work where the brains of different genetic strains of Aplysia have been compared.

If on the other hand you are interested in any genetic study, and cost is no object, why not look at some of the Sea Hares which are thought to have worldwide distributions. Are they really the same species or not? Take a 'species' that is today found in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, the Indo-West Pacific and east Pacific. While populations on both sides of the Panama isthmus may still be reproductively viable, the Atlantic and Pacific populations have been isolated for a much longer period. It would certainly be interestng to study.

A few Sea Hares which have very large distributions include:
Aplysia dactylomela
Aplysia juliana
Bursatella leachi
Stylocheilus striata
Stylocheilus longicauda

Perhaps you should contact Mónica Medina [details on the Participants Page] who has looked at population genetics in Aplysia californica.

Best wishes,
Bill Rudman

Rudman, W.B., 2001 (Mar 26). Comment on Genetic Studies of Sea Slugs by Eric Diano. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

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