Photo: Steve with tagged Aplysia californica during Ph.D. research.
Photo: Aplysia kurodai in Japan.
Photo: Aplysia brasiliana swimming in Texas.
I am not currently working on sea hares; however, my Ph.D. and postdoctoral work focused on the ecology and chemical ecology of sea hares (marine gastropods from the genera Aplysia, Dolabella and Stylocheilus). Most of my sea hare studies were conducted in collaboration with Dr. Valerie Paul or Dr. Thomas Carefoot. Sea hares acquire a large number of secondary metabolites from their seaweed diet, and store these compounds in their skin and/or internal organs. Despite decades of interest, we still have little understanding of how (if at all) these stored compounds benefit sea hares. Some compounds may deter predation; others may function as sunscreens. In both cases, experimental evidence for the purported function is mixed.
I have also used sea hares as model organisms for studies of plant-herbivore interactions. Most recently, I studied swimming behavior of sea hares that are common on the Texas coast.
Some recent sea hare publications:
Donovan, D. A., Pennings, S. C., Carefoot, T. H. 2006. Swimming in the sea hare Aplysia brasiliana: cost of transport, parapodial morphometry, and swimming behavior. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 328:76-86.
Carefoot, T. H. and S. C. Pennings. 2003. Influence of proximal stimuli on swimming in the sea hare Aplysia brasiliana. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 288:223-237.
Pennings, S. C., S. Nastisch and V. J. Paul. 2001. Vulnerability of sea hares to fish predators: importance of diet and fish species. Coral Reefs 20:320-324.
Carefoot, T. H., D. Karentz, S. C. Pennings and C. L. Young. 2000. Distribution of mycosporine-like amino acids in the sea hare Aplysia dactylomela: effect of diet on amounts and types sequestered over time in tissues and spawn. Comp. Biochem. Physiol. 126C: 91-104.
Pennings, S. C., V. J. Paul, D. C. Dunbar, M. T. Hamann, W. A. Lumbang, B. Novack and R. S. Jacobs. 1999. Unpalatable compounds in the marine gastropod Dolabella auricularia: distribution and effect of diet. J. Chem. Ecol. 25: 735-755.