Phyllaplysia from Sydney, Australia

February 4, 2002
From: Andrew Trevor-Jones

I found a couple of sea hares in one of my aquariums which I believe are Dolabrifera dolabrifera. These molluscs have the standard head of a sea hare - anterior tentacles plus rhinophores and the body is very much flattened as in the pictures on the forum. Both sets of tentacles seem more cylindrical than some of the pictures of this species in the forum.

I have not yet got a good photo of the dorsal surface, but have attached a couple of pictures of the venteral surface which show that the foot is nearly transparent. One of the photos shows two sea hares copulating. While there is a small amount of live rock (coral rubble) in the tank, I have been collecting samples of sand from in around sea grass beds around Sydney Harbour (Balmoral and Camp Cove) and I suspect it is from here that the sea hares were introduced.

Can you please confirm my assumption on the species?
Many thanks,

Trevor-Jones, A., 2002 (Feb 4) Phyllaplysia from Sydney, Australia. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

Dear Andrew,
You animals are indeed aplysiids but they belong to Phyllaplysia, which is another genus of the Sea Hare. The transparent and flattened sole of the foot is rather different from Dolabrifera which usually crawls in a leech-like fashion, stretching out its head, attaching it to the substrate, then dragging the posterior part of the body forward. They are probably a good thing to have in the aquaria as they shpuld keep algal growth down and won't grow as big as a species of Aplysia.

Phyllaplysia is often found on sea grasses and is remarkably well camouflaged. Unfortunately too little work has ben done on the group for us to be sure how many species there are and how to tell them apart so at the moment I and just lumping them all as Stylocheilus spp which is just a shorthand way of saying Stylocheilus species (plural) as distinct from Stylocheilus sp which means Stylocheilus species (singular).
Bbest wishes,
Bill Rudman

Rudman, W.B., 2002 (Feb 4). Comment on Phyllaplysia from Sydney, Australia by Andrew Trevor-Jones. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

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