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Student Project

Goniobranchus Daphne

Emily McGuren 2021


Physical Description


Life History and Behaviour

Anatomy and Physiology

Biogeographic Distribution

Evolution and Systematics

The taxonomy of nudibranchs has traditionally been heavily based on morphological traits, with almost no fossil records available due to their soft bodies. With the emergence of genetic sequencing techniques, the phylogenetic relationships of nudibranchs have been contentious. Work involving mitochondrial genes suggested that Goniobranchus are indeed a separate and older genus, with many species previously identified as Chromodoris in fact belonging to the Goniobranchus (16). Below is a classification of the Chromodorid family suggested by Johnson and Gosliner in 2012.


Phylum: Mollusca (Linnaeus, 1758)
Class: Gastropoda (Cuvier, 1795)
Subclass: Heterobranchia (Gray, 1840)
Infraclass: Opisthobranchia (Milne-Edwards, 1848)
Order: Nudibranchia (Blainville, 1814)
Suborder: Doridina (Bouchet, 2017)
Superfamily: Eudoridoidea (Odhner, 1934)
Family: Chromodorididae (Bergh, 1981)
Genus: Goniobranchus (Pease, 1866)
Species: Goniobranchus daphne (Angas, 1864)

Previously, numerous species names have been used as synonyms throughout literature. They are as follows:

Chromodoris daphne (Angas, 1864)

Glossodoris daphne (Agnas, 1864)

And originally described as Goniodoris daphne (Agnas,1864)

Conservation and Threats

Due to their size, and poorly understood life history, it is difficult to quantify populations of many nudibranch species. To date, the abundance and distribution of G. daphne has not been studied. Most recent nudibranch literature focuses on their incredible ability to ingest, store and utilise the defensive chemicals of other organisms, often without considering their interspecies interactions in the process.

Given their intense prey specificity, nudibranchs are highly susceptible to localised extinction when their prey species is lost (12).Similar to their diet specificity, nudibranchs lack tolerance to chemical and physical variation in water.

G. daphne are not recommended for aquariums and are not an important tourism species and their ecological role is poorly understood, providing little incentive for further research to understand their threats. It is important, however, to acknowledge that highly specific marine species such as G. daphne can act as indicators of ecosystem health, due to their vulnerability to environmental changes.