Marine Biology

, Volume 147, Issue 6, pp 1313–1321 | Cite as

Nematocyst complements of nudibranchs in the genus Flabellina in the Gulf of Maine and the effect of diet manipulations on the cnidom of Flabellina verrucosa

  • Kinsey E. FrickEmail author
Research Article


Aeolid nudibranchs maintain functional nematocysts, which are sequestered from the nudibranchs’ cnidarian prey and provide protection against predators. Some species exhibit extensive variation in incorporated nematocysts, while others maintain a limited number of types. This study examines the apparent diversity in uptake and patterns of nematocyst incorporation among related species. Nematocyst complements were described for four Gulf of Maine nudibranch species in the genus Flabellina exhibiting a variety of feeding strategies and prey specificities. Diet manipulations were performed to examine the response to changing nematocyst availability using a generalist consumer, Flabellina verrucosa, to assess nematocyst uptake based on diet. The flabellinid species examined exhibited significant differences in nematocyst incorporation, reflecting differences in their specificity as predators and nematocyst types available in their natural prey. The nematocyst complement of F. verrucosa was the most variable and differed among collection regions. When diet was manipulated, nematocyst uptake depended on the prey the nudibranchs consumed, but when offered a variety of prey, F. verrucosa selectively preferred nematocysts from scyphistomae. The observed variation in nematocyst uptake among species and regions probably relates to environmental disparities among populations.


Prey Species Hydroid Mooring Line Diet Manipulation Northern Site 
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Support, space, and funding from the University of New Hampshire enabled the completion of this project. Dr. Larry Harris supported both the ideas and research for this work, and provided comments on drafts of this paper, along with reviewers for this journal and the Northwest Fisheries Science Center. Specimen collection could not have been completed without help from Rebecca Toppin and Glen Rice. Additional comments from Lauralyn Dyer and Jennifer Dijkstra improved the experimental design. This research was supported by funds from the University of New Hampshire Center for Marine Biology; the National Sea Grant College Program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, under grant number NA56RG0159; and by additional funds provided by the Open Ocean Aquaculture project component of the NOAA UNH Cooperative Institute for New England Mariculture and Fisheries (CINEMAR), NOAA grant number NA16RP1718. These experiments comply with the current laws of the United States of America.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fish Ecology DivisionNOAA Fisheries, Northwest Fisheries Science CenterSeattleUSA

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