Acanthodoris lutea

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Orange-peel doris
Acanthodoris lutea in california tide pools 2.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Gastropoda
(unranked): clade Heterobranchia

clade Euthyneura
clade Nudipleura
clade Nudibranchia
clade Euctenidiacea
clade Doridacea

Superfamily: Onchidoridoidea
Family: Onchidorididae
Genus: Acanthodoris
Species: A. lutea
Binomial name
Acanthodoris lutea
MacFarland, 1925[1]

Acanthodoris lutea, the orange-peel doris, is a species of nudibranch or sea slug, a shell-less marine opisthobranch gastropod mollusk in the family Onchidorididae.[2]

This species is the largest of the northeastern Pacific onchidorids.[3] It is a common species, and it is very noticeable because of its bright coloration, which is aposematic. The species name "lutea" is a Latin word which means an orange-yellow color. The generic name, "acantho" comes from the Greek word meaning spiny, and "doris" is the name of an ancient Greek sea nymph.


Acanthodoris lutea
Acanthodoris lutea

This nudibranch grows to about 30 cm in length. It has a bright orange papillated dorsum covered with yellow specks. As is the case with many nudibranchs, this bright coloration is thought to be a reminder to would-be predators of its distasteful nature, an example of aposematic coloration. When handled, these slugs often smell of sandalwood.[3]


This dorid nudibranch was described from Cayucos, San Luis Obispo County, California. It lives on the Pacific coast of North America from Cape Arago, Oregon to northern Baja California, Mexico.[4] Specimens from Duxbury Reef, Marin County, California and Puget Sound, Kitsap County, Washington have been sequenced for the 16S ribosomal RNA, Histone H3 and CO1 genes.[5][6]


The orange-peel doris lives in the intertidal and subtidal zones on rocky shores.

Life habits[edit]

Acanthodoris lutea in a California tide pool laying eggs

Acanthodoris lutea feeds on bryozoans of the genus Alcyonidium. It turns the chemicals taken from the bryozoan food into a noxious metabolite which is toxic to possible predators.[7] This species is aposematically colored, warning predators of this toxic deterrent.[8]


  1. ^ MacFarland, F. M. 1925. The Acanthodorididae of the California coast. Nautilus 39(2):49-65, pls. 2-3, page 60.
  2. ^ Bouchet, P. (2015). Acanthodoris lutea MacFarland, 1925. In: MolluscaBase (2015). Accessed through: World Register of Marine Species on 2016-01-09
  3. ^ a b Behrens D.W., 1980, Pacific Coast Nudibranchs: a guide to the opisthobranchs of the northeastern Pacific, Sea Challenger Books, Washington, 112pp., p. 48.
  4. ^ Goddard, J., 2003 (January 12) Acanthodoris lutea MacFarland, 1925. [In] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney.
  5. ^ Hallas, JM and Gosliner, TM. (2015) Family Matters: the first molecular phylogeny of the Onchidorididae (Mollusca, Gastropoda, Nudibranchia). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 88: 16-27.
  6. ^ Hallas, J.M., Simison, W.B. & Gosliner, T.M. (2016) Dating and biogeographical patterns in the sea slug genus Acanthodoris Gray, 1850 (Mollusca, Gastropoda, Nudibranchia). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 97: 19-31.
  7. ^ Morris, R.H., D.P. Abbott & E.C. Haderlie (1980) Intertidal Invertebrates of California. Stanford University Press: Stanford, California.
  8. ^ Behrens, D. W. (2003) Acanthodoris lutea. In: Miller, M. (2015) The Slug Site.