Suborder : DORIDINA
Superfamily : Eudoridoidea
Family : Phyllidiidaedae

In the Eudoridoidea the gills can be withdrawn into a pocket for protection. Another name for the superfamily is the "Cryptobranchia" which basically means "hidden gills".

The Phyllidiidae, Rafinesque, 1814

There exist in this familly six genus : Phyllidia (Cuvier, 1797), Fryeria (Gray, 1853), Phyllidiella ( Bergh, 1869), Phyllidiopsis (Bergh, 1875), Ceratophyllidia ( Eliot, 1903) and Reticulidia (Brunckhorst, 1990), only Reticulidia genus is absent from Reunion Island.

All the information presented in this page come from Brunckhorst publication :
Brunckhorst, D.J. (1993) The systematics and phylogeny of Phyllidiid Nudibranchs (Doridoidea). Records of the Australian Museum, Supplement 16: 1-107.

Characteristics of Phyllidiidae

Members of the family Phyllidiidae are tough bodied and generally possess hard notal tubercles, and the general shape tend to be more oval than elongate

The mantle skirt covers the foot.

They have retractile lamellate rhinophores.

Lamellate rhinophore

They lack the dorsal, circumanal floret of gills which are typical of other dorids.

A posterior, median, dorsal anus is present in alI members of the Phyllidiidae except for Fryeria (posteroventral).

phyllidia coelestris
Secondary gills : Phyllidia varicosa


The secondary gills of alI phyllidiid nudibranches are flat and triangular in shape, the longest edge being attached at right angles across the groove which occurs ventrolaterally between the mantle and the foot.

Large and small gill leaflets alternate in a series (frorn 70 - 150 leaflets) around the entire ventrolateral groove.

The gills are interrupted by the mouth, anteriorly, and the reproductive openings on the right hand side (and in Fryeria by the anal opening).

In some species the foot sole may possess a longitudinal black stripe or other distinctive mark.

They have no jaws or radula, the foregut is highly modified for suctorial feeding on sponges

Phyllidia alyta


External and internal features of different phyllidiidae :

In this table we have presented only some external and internal characters of the six genera of phyllidiid (see reference / Brunckhorst for more details)

Oral tentacles
partially fused
Rhinophores coloration
cream to yellow
cream to yellow
various colours : bi or multi-colored
White to cream
Notal ornementation
tuberculate (may form ridges)
tuberculate (may form ridges)
tuberculate (may form ridges)
stalked papillae (no tubercles)
smooth ridges (no tubercles)
Pharyngeal bulb
large, ovate
small, broad
very large
very elongated
large, broadly rounded
Oesophageal retractor muscle
Anal position
large, bulbous
short, narrow
short, narrow
short, narrow
Bursa copulatrix stalked
no, or very short
yes (long)

Characteristics of genus Phyllidia :

External morphology :

Species of Phyllidia generally possessing large nodal tubercles on the dorsum.
    The tubercles may form, or be joined by, longitudinal ridges.
    Rhinotubercles are present. The rhinophore colour is cream to gold -yellow.
    The two separate digitate oral tentacles are, finger- like protuberances.
    A groove is present on the ventrolateral surface of each oral tentacle.

Anatomy :

The pharynx narrows slightly and forms a distinctive "S" bend through the central nerve ring.

From there, the oesophagus continues back into a large compact digestive gland mass which occupies about two thirds of the body cavity.

There is no distinct separation into a stomach region within the digestive gland mass.

The intestine originates dorsally from the posterior half of the digestive gland mass and passes forward before turning to the right, almost encircling the pericardium, and then straightening to run posteriorly down the right side to open mid-dorsally via the anal papilla.

The blood gland overlies the oesophagus, central nerve ring and reproductive organs.

In Phyllidia, as in alI phyllidiids, the ovotestis overlies the anterior portion of the digestive glands.

The excretory system was not completely traced although the position of the renal syrinx is indicated.

The reproductive system occurs in the space between the pharyngeal bulb (anteriorly) and the digestive gland mass (posteriorly) and opens laterally between the mantle and foot on the right side.

The mouth leads into a short narrow oral tube which passes into a swollen, musculoglandular pharyngeal bulb.

The length of the pharyngeal bulb is equal to its breadth.

Two large extrinsic retractor muscles insert posterodorsally onto the pharyngeal bulb and originate from the dorsolateral body wall about one quarter to one third of the length down the body.

A short, narrow tubular pharynx leaves the pharyngeal bulb posterodorsally.

The pharynx narrows slightly and forms a distinctive "S"

Then, the oesophagus continues back into a large compact digestive gland mass which occupies about two thirds of the body cavity.

Reproductive system :

The ovotestis produces male and female sexual cells.

From the ovotestis the hermaphrodite duct expands into a spherical ampulla.

The ampulla is the same size or slightly smaller than the bursa copulatrix and receptaculum seminis.

The prostate and oviduct separate immediately at their common departure point from the ampulla.

The penis is large and bulbous, it is eversible, the distal end possessing rows of spines.

The nidamental gland mass is very large and spherical.

The bursa copulatrix and receptaculurn seminis are large, rounded, and of equal size.

The vaginal duct divides at the base of the bursa. Distally, the vaginal duct enters a common vestibule with the penis.

reproductive system

Reference :

Brunckhorst, D.J. (1993) The systematics and phylogeny of Phyllidiid Nudibranchs (Doridoidea). Records of the Australian Museum, Supplement 16: 1-107.