Austrodoris kerguelenensis
(Bergh, 1884)

Suborder: DORIDINA
Family: Dorididae


Probably widespread around Antarctica and subantarctic islands. Known from Weddell & Ross Seas, Kerguelen Islands and the southern tip of South America.


McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. This photo is published with the permission of Norbert Wu from the Underwater Field Guide to Ross Island & McMurdo Sound, Antarctica .

Austrodoris kerguelenensis ranges in colour from white to bright yellow. It well illustrates the problems associated with studying the taxonomy of Antarctic nudibranchs. Every polar expedition brought back a few specimens which were worked on, usually by naturalists of the country from which the expedition originated. In most cases, no information on the colour or shape of the living animals were collected. As Heike Wagele has shown with Austrodoris, specimens from each expedition tended to be considered a distinct species. In the case of Austrodoris at least 14 names have been given to what Wagele now considers to be a single species! She shows that the variation in tubercle shape and size, alimentary canal and nerous system are clearly nothing more than intraspecific variation. This species has a widespread distribution around the Antarctic continent with many records from the Weddell and Ross Seas and as its name implies, from the sub-Antarctic Kerguelen Islands. There are also records from the southern tip of South America. The genus Austrodoris is apparently endemic to the Antarctic region and differs from Archidoris in details of the reproductive system. Dayton et. al.(1974) considers that Austrodoris kerguelenensis feeds, on the hexactinellid sponges (Rosella sp., Scolymastra sp.) as animals are often found sitting on large colonies, and juveniles are often found in the central cavity of the sponge colony. Barnes & Bullough (1996) report that at Signy Island (Scotia Sea) it feeds almost exclusively on the demosponge Dendrilla antarctica.

• Barnes, D.K.A. & Bullough, L.W. (1996). Some observations on the diet and distribution of nudibranchs at Signy Island, Antarctica. Journal of Molluscan Studies 62, 281-287.
• Dayton, P.K., Robilliard, G.A., Paine, R.T. & Dayton, L.B. (1974). Biological accommodation in the benthic community at McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. Ecological Monographs, 44: 105-128.
• Garcia, F.J., Troncoso, J.S., Garcia-Gomez, J.C. & Cervera, J.L. (1993). Anatomical and taxonomical studies on the Antarctic nudibranchs Austrodoris kerguelenensis (Bergh, 1884) and A. georgiensis n.sp. from the Scotia Sea. Polar Biology, 13: 417-421.
• Wagele, H. (1987): The distribution of some Antarctic nudibranchs (Opisthobranchia). Journal of Molluscan Studies 53, 179-188.
• Wagele, H. (1989): Diet of some Antarctic nudibranchs (Gastropoda, Opisthobranchia, Nudibranchia). Marine Biology 100, 439-441.
• Wagele, H. (1990): Revision of the genus Austrodoris Odhner, 1926 (Gastropoda, Opisthobranchia). Journal of Molluscan Studies 56, 163-180.

Authorship details
Rudman, W.B., 1999 (February 9) Austrodoris kerguelenensis (Bergh, 1884). [In] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

Related messages

Austrodoris kerguelenensis from the Antarctic Peninsula

April 16, 2010
From: Erling Svensen

Hi Bill

Just a couple of pictures of Austrodoris kerguelenensis from Antarctica last year.

I will go diving to the fjords today [Jan 20], minus 15 degrees Centigrades, but nice clear sky.

Locality: Antarctic peninsula, 20 meter, Antarctica, March 2008. Length: Approx. 10 cm. Photographer: Erling Svensen.

Best regards

Svensen, E., 2010 (Apr 16) Austrodoris kerguelenensis from the Antarctic Peninsula. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

Thanks Erling,

Best wishes,
Bill Rudman

Austrodoris kerguelenensis

March 18, 2010
From: Kevin Lee

Hi Doc,

Wow, how fast time flies! This time last year I dived the frigid waters (29F) off the Antarctic. Wanted to contribute some Antarctic opisthobranchs to the Sea Slug Forum archives. I believe the two attached photos are of the same species, A. kerguelenensis, one adult and one juvenile. General photos are posted on

Locality: Goudier-Jougla, 25 feet, Antarctic Peninsula, Southern Ocean, 9 March 2009, rocky slope. Length: approx. 1 inch. Photographer: Kevin Lee.

Best wishes,

Kevin Lee

Kevin Lee, 2010 (Mar 18) Austrodoris kerguelenensis[Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

Dear Kevin,

It looks like A. kerguelenensis to me but hopefully if it is not someone more expert will let us know. From to realtive large rhinophores, I assume the animal in the lower photo is the juvenile, I have included a closeup as it shows the arrangement of the tubercles rather well.

Best wishes,
Bill Rudman

Rudman, W.B., 2010 (Mar 18). Comment on Austrodoris kerguelenensis[Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

Austrodoris kerguelenensis from Antarctic waters

July 10, 2007
From: David Cothran

Hi Bill,
Here is a shot of Austrodoris kerguelenensis (or is it Doris now?) climbing on the solitary ascidian Cnemidocarpa verrucosa. Could it be grazing on the forams that often grow on this ascidian? I don't think that is could be feeding on the ascidian itself since this species has a very tough cuticle that contains cellulose. I have mostly seen A. kerguelenensis on the sponges Homaxinella balfourensis and Dendrilla antarctica. What do you think?

Locality: Port Lockroy (inner bay), Antarctic Peninsula, Southern Ocean. 16 meters, 12 cm long. 7 February 2007, Soft bottom, Photo: David Cothran

Best regards,

Cothran, D.B., 2007 (Jul 10) Austrodoris kerguelenensis from Antarctic waters. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

Dear David,
Thanks for the photo. Concerning the status of Austrodoris - as I discussed in an earlier message [#19925 ], a new hypothesis has been made about the status of many dorid genera. The changes could all prove to be correct, but I don't think we should automatically accept every nomenclatural and taxonomic hypothesis as soon as it is proposed. In particular I would like to know what happens to the cladograms when multiple species of each genus are included.

Concerning feeding. I agree that it would be most unlikely that your animal is feeding on the ascidian or forams on the surface. As I mention on the Fact Sheet,  Barnes & Bullough (1996) report that it feeds almost exclusively on Dendrilla antarctica. Nudibranchs tend to perch in some strange places at times.

Best wishes,
Bill Rudman

Rudman, W.B., 2007 (Jul 10). Comment on Austrodoris kerguelenensis from Antarctic waters by David Cothran. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

Austrodoris kerguelenensis

March 12, 2001
From: Nicole Brown

Hello! My name is Nicole. I am from a small town in the Pacific Northwest [USA]. My Biology class is doing reports. My report is on Nudibranchs. One of the individual ones I chose to do was the species Austrodoris kerguelenensis. I cannot find very much information on it because it is rare. If you could send me anything it would be a great help!

Brown, N., 2001 (Mar 12) Austrodoris kerguelenensis. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

Dear Nicole,
This is difficult choice. Austrodoris kerguelensis is found in sub-Antarctic and Antarctic waters and so few people have had the opportunity to study it. I am not sure if you have looked at the Austrodoris kerguelensis Page on the Forum. If not, you will find a summary and references to the major information available on this species.
Best wishes,
Bill Rudman