Aplysia punctata

Aplysia punctata (Cuvier, 1803)

Aplysia punctata @ L'Escala by Enric Madrenas




































Aplysia punctata  (Cuvier, 1803)

 Classification according to Bouchet et al. (2017)
Taxonomic source: World Register of Marine Species (AphiaID: 138758).
Taxonomic note: According to a recent paper by Golestani et al (2019) all Mediterranean sea hares classified as Aplysia parvula are now Aplysia punctata. However, considering there are many “morphotypes” of Aplysia parvula and Aplysia punctata with more than evident morphologic differences (we have observed many types of small Aplysia in our sampling dives), we keep the former denomination as valid until further studies are published on this group.


  • Aplysia cuvieri Delle Chiaje, 1828
  • Aplysia dumortieri Cantraine, 1835
  • Aplysia ferussaci Rang, 1828
  • Aplysia griffithsiana Leach, 1852
  • Aplysia guttata Sars M., 1840
  • Aplysia hybrida Sowerby J., 1806
  • Aplysia longicornis Rang, 1828
  • Aplysia marginata de Blainville, 1823
  • Aplysia mustelina Pennant, 1812
  • Aplysia nexa Thompson W., 1845
  • Aplysia nigromarginata Risso, 1818
  • Aplysia rosea Rathke, 1799
  • Aplysia stellata Risso, 1818
  • Aplysia unicolor Risso, 1818
  • Aplysia varians Leach, 1852
  • Aplysia virescens Risso, 1818
  • Laplysia punctata Cuvier, 1803 (original)

It is a large sea hare as it can reach up to 20cm in length. The body is characteristically long and narrow. The oral tentacles are short and the auriculate rhinophores are long and thin. The coloration of this species is highly variable because the juveniles of a few centimeters long are usually pink or show red tones while adults of a larger size can be colored brown, brown-green, dark red, purple or red background with whitish spots frequently combined with darker spots. The parapodia are fused in the back. In the dorsal part of the mantle there is a fairly large foramen, and the inner shell can be seen through it. This shell can reach up to 4 cm in length, it is fine, almost transparent, and colored light amber. The opaline gland opens into the mantle cavity through multiple pores. The foot is long, narrow and finishes in a pointed tail.

Like other European species of the genus, A.punctata lives in coastal shallow waters where photophilic algae grow, as it feeds upon them. Feeds on different species of algae of the genera Polysiphonia, Ceramium, Laurencia, Corallina, Lomentaria, Gracilaria, Ulva and Fucus (Martínez, 1995), whose pigments can alter the animal’s coloration. The parapodia are joined in the back, which prevents the animal from making swimming movements. When specimens are abruptly disturbed they are able to segregate a defensive whitish fluid from the opaline gland, sometimes mixed with another purple fluid from other glands in the mantle. During spring it can be observed in groups of individuals, copulating in chain, as in other species of the same genus. After copulation the animals lay a cord of eggs forming an orange-yellow, sometimes pink, compact mass; inside the cord there are capsules containing 3 or 4 eggs of about 100 microns in diameter each (Thompson, 1976).


  • Aplysia, from Greek word for dirty
  • Punctata, from French word “ponctuée”, dotted.

It is a species distributed throughout all the coasts of Europe, from Greenland to Norway, Baltic Sea, British Isles, Canary Islands, Madeira, Azores and the Mediterranean Sea. In the Iberian Peninsula has been cited in all coastal areas in both Spanish and Portuguese waters. In the Catalan coast there it has been cited in the Costa Brava north and south, the Medes Islands, Maresme, Costa Dorada and Tarragona coastline down to Sant Carles de la Rapita.

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


    Western Mediterranean: ★★☆☆☆
    Eastern Mediterranean: ★★☆☆☆
    Atlantic Ocean: ★★☆☆☆

This chart displays the monthly observation probability for Aplysia punctata based on our own records.



More pictures


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Further reading

Cite this article as:

Ballesteros, M., Madrenas, E. & Pontes, M. (2023) "Aplysia punctata" in OPK-Opistobranquis. Published: 15/05/2012. Accessed: 13/04/2024. Available at (https://opistobranquis.info/en/?p=361)

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