Is Port Stephens, eastern Australia, a global hotspot for biodiversity of Aplysiidae (Gastropoda: Heterobranchia)?

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Nimbs, MJ, Willan, RC & Smith, SDA 2017, 'Is Port Stephens, eastern Australia, a global hotspot for biodiversity of Aplysiidae (Gastropoda: Heterobranchia)?', Molluscan Research, vol. 37, no. 1, pp. 45-65.

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Port Stephens, a large natural harbour on the central New South Wales (NSW) coast, provides ideal oceanographic and benthic conditions for the growth of marine algae and seagrasses, and this promotes a suite of herbivorous heterobranch sea slugs such as sea hares and sap-sucking sea slugs. In this article we document both historic and recent observations of sea hares (family Aplysiidae) from Port Stephens with the intention of recording species diversity. The western South Pacific region has the richest aplysiid fauna in the world, with 16 species now recorded in Port Stephens. This location is the most taxonomically diverse for this family in Australia. Despite this hotspot of aplysiid diversity, the taxonomy and nomenclature of 12 species is uncertain, a fact highlighted by a series of nomenclatural notes included in this article. We herein report the first observation of Petalifera sp. in Australian waters. Dolabrifera jacksoniensis Pilsbry, 1896Pilsbry, H. (1896) Genus III. Dolabrifera Gray, 1847. Manual of Conchology series 1, volume 16, part 63, 113–160, pls 32–43. is newly synonymised with D. brazieri G.B. Sowerby II, 1870. Recent reports of southern range extensions for other heterobranch sea slugs, both in Port Stephens and elsewhere in NSW, highlight the importance of recording the existing aplysiid diversity in the port. Thus, any future alteration to species composition and range shifts driven by climate change may be detected.

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