Phyllidia flava

Phyllidia flava Aradas, 1847

Phyllidia flava by Enric Madrenas

Class: Gastropoda  Cuvier, 1797
Subclass: Heterobranchia  J.E. Gray, 1840
Clade: Euthyneura  Spengel, 1881
Clade: Nudipleura  Wägele & Willan, 2000
Order: Nudibranchia  Cuvier, 1817
Suborder: Euctenidiacea  Tardy, 1970
Infraorder: Doridacea  Thiele, 1931
Superfamily: Phyllidioidea  Rafinesque, 1814
Family: Phyllidiidae  Rafinesque, 1814
Genus: Phyllidia  Cuvier, 1797
Species: Phyllidia flava  Aradas, 1847


  • Phyllidia aurata Pruvot-Fol, 1952
  • Phyllidia depressa Aradas, 1847
  • Phyllidia papillosa Aradas, 1847
  • Phyllidia pulitzeri Pruvot-Fol, 1962
  • Phyllidia rolandiae Pruvot-Fol, 1951

The specimens of this interesting species measure about 20-30 mm in length. This is a distinct species because of its lemon yellow colouring and the tubercles of the back which are of two types: some large, white and rounded ones and smaller, conical and coloured like the body and more abundant in the back of the dorsum. Albino specimens are known. The rhinophores are fully retractable, small, orange-brown coloured and have about 10-13 lamellae. The rhinophoric sheath has two small tubercles. There are no gill leaves around the anal papilla, which is located in the rear of the mantle and is surrounded by four small conical tubercles. Gill leaves are located beneath the mantle borders, between them and the body side walls on both sides. The gill leaves are numerous, small, triangular, alternating a smaller one with a somewhat bigger one. They are yellow like the body. Beneath the mantle, about 10-15 MDF’s white glands can be observed. The foot is coloured soft orange, it is narrow, with a rounded front and a sharp rear. The mouth has a pair of wide, yellow triangular labial palps.

This is a rare species in the western Mediterranean, where it is often found in coraligenous bottoms on sponges like Axinella cannabina, A. polypoides and Acanthella acuta. It has been proven that feeds on the latter. Specimens of P. flava have a very characteristic smell and when disturbed secrete a whitish antipredator substance of sesquiterpenoid structure (Wägele et al. 2006). The spawn is a relatively wide coiled ribbon with orange coloured eggs (Trainito & Doneddu, 2014).


  • Phyllidia. From Greek “Phyllon”, leaf + “eîdos”, something seen, form.
  • Flava. From Latin “flavus”, yellow, golden.

It seems to be endemic to the Mediterranean Sea but it has also been cited in the Canary Islands (Ortea et al. 2001). In the Iberian Peninsula it has only been cited in the Catalan coast (at Es Caials, Cadaqués, in the Medes Islands and in the trawling bottoms “Els Capets” between Pineda de Mar and Blanes), also in the Balearic Islands (Cervera et al. 2004).

Known georeferenced records of the species: Phyllidia flava
: 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 observation probability for Phyllidia flava based on our own records.

More pictures


Further reading

Cite this article as:

Ballesteros, Manuel, Enric Madrenas, Miquel Pontes (2012-2018) "Phyllidia flava" in OPK-Opistobranquis, Published: 16/05/2012, Accessed: 23/01/2018 at (

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