Original Paper

Marine Biology

, Volume 158, Issue 5, pp 1095-1109

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Impacts associated with the recent range shift of the aeolid nudibranch Phidiana hiltoni (Mollusca, Opisthobranchia) in California

  • Jeffrey H. R. GoddardAffiliated withMarine Science Institute, University of California Email author 
  • , Terrence M. GoslinerAffiliated withDepartment of Invertebrate Zoology and Geology, California Academy of Sciences
  • , John S. PearseAffiliated withDepartment of Invertebrate Zoology and Geology, California Academy of SciencesLong Marine Laboratory, University of California


In 1977, Phidiana hiltoni (O’Donoghue in J. Entomol Zool (Pomona College, Claremont, California) 19:77–119, 1927) began spreading northward from Monterey, California. By 1992, it had reached Duxbury Reef (37° 53′ 23″ N, 122° 41′ 59″ W), 100 km to the north, where other nudibranchs subsequently appeared to decline. The role of P. hiltoni in this decline was investigated through diet analysis, feeding trials, and comparison of historical and recent abundance data. In the wild, P. hiltoni preyed largely on hydroids, but also showed evidence of predation on nudibranchs. In the laboratory, P. hiltoni attacked most of the dendronotid and aeolid nudibranchs presented to it, ingesting small individuals whole. The pooled abundance of nudibranchs vulnerable to attack by P. hiltoni declined an average of two-thirds at Duxbury Reef since its arrival, compared to (1) no change in the non-vulnerable species and (2) no change in either group at two other sites where P. hiltoni was one to two orders of magnitude less abundant. Phidiana hiltoni therefore appears to have caused this decline, likely through a combination of direct predation and competition for prey. A brief larval period, combined with cyclonic re-circulation in the lee of Point Reyes, may be driving self-recruitment of P. hiltoni at Duxbury Reef, as well as hindering further northward spread.