Petalifera petalifera

Petalifera petalifera (Rang, 1828)

Petalifera petalifera by Enric Madrenas

Class: Gastropoda Cuvier, 1797
Subclass: Heterobranchia J.E. Gray, 1840
Clade: Euthyneura Spengel, 1881
Clade: Euopisthobranchia Jörger et al., 2010
Clade: Aplysiomorpha Pelseneer, 1906
Superfamily: Aplysioidea Lamarck, 1809
Family: Aplysiidae Lamarck, 1809
Genus: Petalifera J.E. Gray, 1847
Species: Petalifera petalifera (Rang, 1828) [Aplysia]


  • Aplysia brugnatelli van Beneden & Robb, 1835
  • Aplysia depressa Cantraine, 1835
  • Aplysia petalifera Rang, 1828 (original)
  • Aplysia unguifera Rang, 1828
  • Aplysia webbii van Beneden & Robb, 1835
  • Phyllaplysia depressa (Cantraine, 1835)

The specimens of this species can measure up to 40 mm in length, but the most common size is between 15 and 25 mm in length. The body is very flat, almost in leaf shaped, and the background color is green but with numerous brown scores and irregular white spots. This coloration may vary depending on the type of algae where it lives: when located on new (the animal color is predominantly green) or old (the dorsum of the animal has many white spots) Posidonia oceanica leaves. There are two auriculate rhinophores on the head, joined at their base. The parapodia are short, cover the entire back and are completely fused but for a dorsal rear hole. In the center of the back and covered by the mantle and parapodia there is a calcified, fragile, whitish, translucent shell.

Descriptive note: As stated by different authors, P. petalifera and the related species Phyllaplysia lafonti due to the the similarity of their morphology and variability in coloration, may have been repeatedly confused in literature previous to 1980. In any case, P. lafonti has a characteristic color pattern of alternate light and dark concentric bands not present in P. petalifera.

In the Mediterranean sea P. petalifera lives closely associated with the leaves and rhizomes of the seagrass Posidonia oceanica. It has mainly nocturnal habbits. Its shape and color pattern makes it very cryptic on the leaves and quite difficult to locate. Outside the Mediterranean it has been located on the stipes of algae of the genus Caulerpa and Padina (Canarias; Ortea & Martinez, 1991) and Enteromorpha and Sargassum (Barbados, Marcus & Hughes, 1974). It is not clear whether it feeds on the cited algae or P. oceanica or the microalgae felt that lives on them.


  • Petalifera. From Greek “petalon”, petal + “pherein”, to carry, to bring.

This is an amfiatlantic species as it has been found in the Caribbean (Miloslavich et al. 2010), in the European Atlantic coasts and in the eastern Mediterranean (Koukouras, 2010). In the Iberian Peninsula it has been cited in the Portuguese coast and the Mediterranean coast, also in the Balearic Islands, Madeira and Azores (Cervera et al. 2004). In Catalonia it has been reported at Es Caials, Cadaqués, L’Escala, Cala Aiguafreda Cala Margarida, Tossa de Mar and Blanes.

Known georeferenced records of the species: Petalifera petalifera
: GROC 2010-2011
: Enric Madrenas
: João Pedro Silva
: Bernard Picton
: Manuel Ballesteros.
: M@re Nostrum
: Altres fonts
: Marine Regions

References for the species: Petalifera petalifera

    Portugal: De Oliveira (1895, as Phyllaplysia depressa), Nobre (1936, as P. paulinoi), Silvestre, Baptista and Jorge (1979, as P. paulinoi). Andalucía (Med.): Templado, Luque and Moreno (1988), Ocaña et al. (2000). Levante: Templado (1982b, 1983, 1984, as Phyllaplysia depressa), Marín and Ros (1987a, as P. depressa), Templado, Luque and Moreno (1988), Martínez Cueto-Felgueroso (1995), Martínez (1996). Catalunya: Hidalgo (1917, citada como P. virescens), Pereira & Ballesteros (1982, citada como Phyllaplysia depressa), Huelin & Ros (1984, citada como P. lafonti), Ballesteros (datos no publicados) [Punta de Santa Anna de Blanes], M@re Nostrum [Illa Mateua 8/1998 y 9/2000]. Baleares: Ros (1981b, as Petalifera lafonti), Martínez Cueto-Felgueroso (1995), Martínez (1996). Canarias: Ortea and Martínez (1991), Martínez Cueto-Felgueroso (1995), Malaquias and Calado (1997), Ortea et al. (2001), Moro et al. (2003). Madeira: Wirtz (pers. comm.).

    Sources: Cervera et al., 2004, Ballesteros, 2007 & 2016, McDonald, 2006 and other sources.


    Western Mediterranean:
    Eastern Mediterranean:
    Atlantic Ocean:
This chart displays the observation probability for Petalifera petalifera based on our own records.

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Further reading

Cite this article as:

Ballesteros, Manuel, Enric Madrenas, Miquel Pontes et al. (2012-2017) "Petalifera petalifera" in OPK-Opistobranquis, Published: 15/05/2012, Accessed: 18/12/2017 at (

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