Marine Biology

, Volume 160, Issue 6, pp 1497–1510 | Cite as

Regional extinction of a conspicuous dorid nudibranch (Mollusca: Gastropoda) in California

  • Jeffrey H. R. Goddard
  • Maria C. Schaefer
  • Craig Hoover
  • Ángel Valdés
Original Paper


Felimare californiensis (=Hypselodoris californiensis) was once common throughout the Southern California Bight (SCB) and California Channel Islands. This well-known shallow-water nudibranch, which specializes on dysideid sponges, has persisted for decades in Mexico, but in California disappeared from its entire range by 1984. Since reappearing in 2003, it has been found only at Santa Catalina Island, plus sightings of single individuals in 2011 at Santa Cruz Island and San Diego. The decline of F. californiensis in California was documented using published historical records, museum collections, unpublished field accounts, and images posted online. The loss of this emblematic species is unique among Californian nudibranchs, including (1) its congener Felimare porterae (=Mexichromis porterae), with which it appears to overlap in diet, and (2) opisthobranch species with similar historical geographic ranges and mode of development. The decline in F. californiensis is not predicted by warming trends and climate variation over the past 40 years, including the strong El Niño events of 1983 and 1998. Coastal pollution from the large human population in southern California may have impacted Dysidea amblia, the primary reported prey of F. californiensis. Historical overcollecting of the nudibranch and habitat loss through the development of major ports likely also contributed to its decline. Sightings since 2003 are consistent with a nascent recovery, as elements of water quality have improved in the SCB in recent decades.


Sponge Tide Pool Channel Island Sampling Trip Calcareous Sponge 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We are grateful to the following colleagues for sharing data and observations: Shane Anderson and Christoph Pierre (UC Santa Barbara), Doug Eerrnisse and Steven Murray (CSU Fullerton), Brenna Green (SFSU), Orso Angulo-Campillo (Centro Interdisciplanario de Ciencias Marinas-IPN, La Paz, Mexico), Dan Richards (Channel Islands National Park); Jack Engle (UC Santa Barbara and Tatman Foundation Channel Islands Research Program), Gary McDonald and John Pearse (UC Santa Cruz) Ed Parnell (Scripps Institution of Oceanography), Jay Smith (Cal Poly Pomona), James Watanabe (Hopkins Marine Station), and Jonathan Williams (Vantuna Research Group, Occidental College). We also thank Liz Kools and Terry Gosliner (California Academy of Sciences) for loan of the field accounts of Richard Roller and James Lance, and Roberta Bloom (UC Santa Barbara) for providing the background map used to construct Fig. 2. Kenneth Kopp graciously allowed us to use his magnificent images of F. californiensis, and Jerry Jacobs guided a group of us to some of Jim Lance’s historical study sites in La Jolla and shared his own recent data from those same sites. Rob van Soest (Naturalis Biodiversity Center) graciously responded to our multiple inquiries concerning dysideid sponges in California. We also thank Jim Carlton (Williams College), Larry Harris (University of New Hampshire), and an anonymous reviewer for their comments and suggestions, and Hans Bertsch (Universidad Autonóma de Baja California) for sharing data on F. californiensis from the Gulf of California and for his extensive comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. Finally, we thank John Albers-Mead, Tracy Clark, Phil Garner, Scott Geitler, Kevin Lee, Merry Passage, and Bruce Wight for sharing information from their combined decades of dedicated and careful observations of opisthobranchs in southern California. Our findings would have been less robust without all of these generous contributions.

Supplementary material

227_2013_2204_MOESM1_ESM.xls (72 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLS 71 kb)
227_2013_2204_MOESM2_ESM.doc (64 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOC 63 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeffrey H. R. Goddard
    • 1
  • Maria C. Schaefer
    • 2
  • Craig Hoover
    • 3
  • Ángel Valdés
    • 4
  1. 1.Marine Science InstituteUniversity of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA
  2. 2.Mountain ViewUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyCalifornia State UniversityNorthridgeUSA
  4. 4.Department of Biological SciencesCalifornia State Polytechnic UniversityPomonaUSA

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