Zoological Studies

Vol. 56, 2017

(update: 2017.11.29; 12.15)

An Historical Summary of the Distribution and Diet of Australian Sea Hares (Gastropoda: Heterobranchia: Aplysiidae)

Matt J. Nimbs1,2,*, Richard C. Willan3, and Stephen D. A. Smith1,2

1National Marine Science Centre, Southern Cross University, P.O. Box 4321, Coffs Harbour, NSW 2450, Australia
2Marine Ecology Research Centre, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW 2456, Australia. E-mail: steve.smith@scu.edu.au
3Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, G.P.O. Box 4646, Darwin, NT 0801, Australia. E-mail: richard.willan@nt.gov.au

(Received 12 September 2017; Accepted 9 November 2017; Published 15 December 2017; Communicated by Yoko Nozawa)

Matt J. Nimbs, Richard C. Willan, and Stephen D. A. Smith (2017) Recent studies have highlighted the high diversity of sea hares (Aplysiidae) in central New South Wales, but their distribution elsewhere in Australian waters has not previously been analysed. Despite the fact that they are often highly abundant and occur in readily accessible coastal habitats, much of the published literature on Australian sea hares concentrates on their taxonomy. As a result, there is a paucity of information about their biology and ecology. This study, therefore, had the objective of compiling the available information on distribution and diet of aplysiids in continental Australia and its offshore island territories to identify important knowledge gaps and provide focus for future research efforts. Aplysiid diversity is highest in the subtropics on both sides of the Australian continent. Whilst animals in the genus Aplysia have the broadest diets, drawing from three major algal groups, other aplysiids can be highly specialised, with a diet that is restricted to only one or a few species. Although the diets of some widespread, frequently-observed taxa have been investigated, those for lesser-known, endemic taxa remain unclear and require specific investigation.

Key Words: Aplysia, Dolabrifera, Dolabella, Algae, Biogeography, Anaspidea, Herbivores.

Correspondence: E-mail: matthew.nimbs@scu.edu.au