Komodo ‘11: Day Four: Muck dive
Phyllodesmium longicirrum or the Solar Panel Sea Slug which has evolved a symbiotic relationship with zooxanthellae. It is exceptionally large, this one was at least 15cm!
The cerata have evolved into large flattened “solar paddles” to maximise the animal’s ability to “farm’ the plants in its body.
It is known to feed on the soft-coral Sarcophyton, and we can only guess that it gets the zooxanthellae from Sarcophyton.
Like all species of Phyllodesmium, this species lacks the defensive cnidosacs usually found in aeolids. Coll et al (1985) have shown that it stores the diterpene trocheliophorol in its cerata. This distasteful, if not toxic, chemical is obtained from it food, the soft coral Sarcophyton trocheliophorium and is possibly an alternative way to ptotect it from predators.