Milky defensive secretions in Phyllidiella

August 18, 2007
From: Leanne & David Atkinson

Hi Bill,
We've recently visited Vanuatu and the warm (26 degrees celcius)clear waters of Hideaway Island, surrounded by Mele Reef, revealed a few interesting nudibranchs.

Locality: Kathleen Reef, Hideaway Island, 20metres, Vanuatu, Pacific, 6 July 2007, Coral Reef. Length: approximately 60mm. Photographer: Leanne & David Atkinson.

Our diveguide Joka found 4 Phyllidiella pustulosa and an egg ring in one spot. Having read on the forum about the importance of looking at the foot as well for identification I turned one over to photograph the foot. Much to my surprise when I replaced it there was a white substance coming off it looking much like it was smoking. You mention in reply to a message by Andy Watts [#9476] that they give off a milky defensive secretion. We think this is an example of it actually happening. This nudibranch is definitely doing something, hope we didn't hurt it.

Thanks for the paper on sponges and chromodorids feeding.
Leanne & David Atkinson

Atkinson, L.& D., 2007 (Aug 18) Milky defensive secretions in Phyllidiella. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

Dear Leanne & David,

I'm glad you thought of turning over the Phyllidiella, it's resulted in this excellent photo of their milky secretions. I am sure you didn't hurt the animal - it was responding to a threat in its usual manner. I mentioned these nasty secretions very early on in the life of the Forum [see message #98]. It is one of the reasons I advise against keeping phyllidiids in home aquariums, because the secretions will kill most life in the aquarium and can also fill the room with acrid fumes.

I'm glad you got the  pdf of the chromodorid feeding paper. I tried to send a copy to all those who contributed by sending observations to the Forum. I am afraid some contributors have changed their email addresses so if anyone wants a copy and hasn't received one please let me know.

Best wishes,
Bill Rudman

Rudman, W.B., 2007 (Aug 18). Comment on Milky defensive secretions in Phyllidiella by Leanne & David Atkinson. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

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