Gretchen Lambert 

12001 11th Ave. NW, Seattle, WA 98177


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Number 74                                                                                                                 December 2014


   Rosana Rocha and I taught a two week workshop June 17-July 2 at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) at Bocas del Toro, Panama. This was the 4th ascidian workshop at Bocas; the first was in 2006. It is very gratifying to see that many of today’s biologists working on ascidians have taken our workshops over the years. In July Susanna López-Legentil (Univ. of N. Carolina) and I conducted an ascidian survey of many marinas and some aquaculture sites along the North Carolina coast, a region that has not been surveyed for ascidians for many decades. See the abstract below.

   I greatly enjoyed seeing many friends at the 5th Intl. Invasive Sea Squirt Conference in Woods Hole, Mass. Oct. 29-31. The talks and posters (see the link to the full program, including abstracts, below in the Abstracts from Recent Meetings section) were very interesting yet also disturbing to realize that invasive ascidians are a continuing and indeed increasingly big problem worldwide.

  *I draw your attention to an important contribution in the Work in Progress section, by John Ryland, on finally elucidating the proper gender of Botrylloides (masculine). This is going to mean changing the ending on a number of species in this genus; please read.

   There are 124 new publications listed at the end of this newsletter. With all the interest in Ciona A and B species, see the Sato et al. 2014 reference.


*Ascidian News is not part of the scientific literature and should not be cited as such.




1. From Gaku Kumano: The 8th Intl. Tunicata meeting will be held on July 13-17, 2015 in Aomori city, Japan. Aomori city is located at the northern end of the Japan main island, being surrounded by well-known scenic places such as the Shirakami Mountains World Heritage Site and Lake Towada. July in Aomori is a pleasant season as the temperature averages approximately 22o C. The organizers are Kazuo Inaba, Director, Shimoda Marine Research Center, University of Tsukuba ( and Gaku Kumano, Asamushi Research Center for Marine Biology, Tohoku University, Asamushi  (

   A website has been uploaded at Resistration and abstract submission is scheduled to start on April 1, 2015. Please visit the website and we look forward to seeing you all at the meeting.


2. From Emma Johnston: The 9th Intl. Conference on Marine Bioinvasions will be held in Sydney, Australia from the 19-21st of January 2016.


3. From Hitoshi Sawada (

  a) Dr. Sawada received a Zoological Society Award September 12, 2014 for: "Studies on the Mechanisms of Ascidian Fertilization".  Our congratulations, Hitoshi!

   b) Drs. Maki Shirae-Kurabayashi, Yuji Ise, and Shiori Nakazawa joined the Sugashima Marine Biological Laboratory as Designated Assistant Professors April 1, 2014. Mainly by these members, the International Summer Course for graduate and undergraduate students will be organized next July, 2015, at the Sugashima MBL. The course will deal with genome editing techniques, and proteomic and molecular phylogenetic analyses, using ascidians and sponges. Detailed information will be up-loaded to the following website.
Those who are interested in attending this course, please send an e-mail to Hitoshi Sawada ( Partial financial support for traveling expense will be considered upon request.


4. From Gretchen Lambert: Dr. Shigeko Ooishi, a world-renowned taxonomist of a specialized group of small crustaceans, copepods parasitic in ascidians, died on September 14 at age 87, after a long and illustrative career. She was born in 1927 in Kumamoto, Japan, the second of four children. Her parents ran a popular buckwheat noodle restaurant for many years; patrons included famous politicians and writers. Shigeko earned her baccalaureate at what is now known as Nara Women’s University, and joined the Faculty of Fisheries at Mie University in 1951 as an assistant. She remained at Mie Univ. for 40 years, rising to the position of professor after receiving her doctorate in 1965 from Nagoya University on decapod embryology; she published a number of papers on various aspects of crustacean biology during her many years at Mie University. My husband Charley and I and our daughters greatly enjoyed a visit with her in Mie in 1992. Mie is located in an important region of pearl culture, and for many years Shigeko’s teaching duties included training hundreds of students on aspects of pearl culture.  During the 1970’s and 1980’s Shigeko spent many summers at the Friday Harbor Laboratories working with Dr. Paul Illg on the systematics and biology of parasitic copepods. After her retirement from Mie Univ., she moved to FHL where she continued her work for 23 years, until May of this year when she moved back to Japan.  She published many papers and monographs: 38 on parasitic copepods, 5 of them with Paul Illg. She traveled widely to collect and photograph live copepods living in ascidians, in order to record their unique color patterns, including Roscoff in Brittany, France; Portobello Marine Lab in southern New Zealand; Hopkins Marine Lab in Pacific Grove, CA. Her last work was ascidian-associated copepods of Arthur Humes collections from Madagascar; she completed the last two papers just before returning to Japan.  In 2013 she was named an Honorary Fellow of the E.S. Morse Institute (see article and photo in Fall 2013 FHL newsletter).

   I will greatly miss Shigeko; we were friends for many decades. Tributes can be made in memory of Shigeko to any of the FHL scholarship funds ( ), several of which she supported for many years, especially the Patricia L. Dudley Endowment for Friday Harbor Laboratories.

-----With help from Dr. Keiji Baba ( and information from: History of Carcinology edited by Frank Truesdale, 1993. CRC Press. Chapter 6: Women’s contributions to carcinology by P.A. McLaughlin and S. Gilchrist. Pp. 196-197: A woman carcinologist in Japan: Shigeko Ooishi.

5. From Christian Sardet, Emeritus, CNRS Villefranche,  : The American edition of my book "Plancton - aux origines du vivant" (Ulmer 2013) will be published in April 2015 by University of Chicago Press under the title "Plankton - Wonders of The Drifting World"

   In France the book has been very well-received, and recently obtained a prize as "best underwater world guide":

   It was recently published in Japanese:


6. From Stefano Tiozzo, Observatoire Océanologique de Villefranche-sur-Mer, France :

    We are recruiting researchers at different levels to join a 4-years international project, DEVODIVERSITY, funded by the French Agence Nationale de la Recherché (ANR) and the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP).

  The Brown Lab at the Instituto de Biociências in Brazil (USP) and the Tiozzo Lab at the Villefranche-sur-Mer Developmental Biology Laboratory in France (CNRS-UPMC) will study the evolution of regeneration, asexual reproduction, and clonality in several species of ascidians (Urochordata), and examine how ecological factors affect distribution ranges, evolution of life cycles, and developmental strategies.

DEVODIVERSITY has the following aims:

1. To resolve the phylogenetic relationships and evolutionary transitions between strictly sexual reproduction to budding or high regenerative abilities among Styelidae (Ascidiacea) species.

2. To provide a morphological and ecological understanding of asexual propagation (budding). We will generate detailed anatomical and developmental descriptions of budding processes, and explore if environmental conditions are associated with the use of particular budding modes.

3. To compare gene pathways involved in cell function or trans/de-differentiation processes of budding and regeneration by in silico analysis of transcriptomic data.

4. To launch a comparative genomic approach if styelid ascidians to better understand the evolution of major life history transitions in marine chordates, in particular the evolutionary transition from sexual to asexual propagation.

  For more information, contact Stefano Tiozzo  or Federico Brown .




1.  From Don Deibel, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Centre,

St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada :

Deibel, D., McKenzie, C.H., Rise, M.L., Thompson, R.J., Lowen, J.B., Ma, K.C.K., Applin, G., O’Donnell, R., Wells, T., Hall, J.R., Sargent, P., and Pilgrim, B.B. 2014. Recommendations for eradication and control of non-indigenous, colonial ascidian tunicates in Newfoundland harbours. Canadian Manuscript Reports of Fisheries and  Aquatic Sciences. 3039: xi + 60 p. The pdf can be downloaded from the website of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada:

2. From Xavier Turon, Blanes, Spain : A review of invasion genetics of marine organisms in Europe by Marc Rius, Xavier Turon, Giacomo Bernardi, Filip Volckaert and Frédérique Viard [Rius et al. 2014, Biol. Invasions; see New Publications at end of newsletter] has highlighted that ascidians are the group for which more genetic studies on introduced species have been published in the area. A detailed list of these studies is given in the supplementary material, and general conclusions about genetic patterns of non-indigenous species and evolutionary implications are drawn from the data compiled.

3. From John Ryland  The gender of Botrylloides is masculine.


    I have been revising the Tunicata (actually only Ascidiacea) chapter of the Handbook of the Marine Fauna of North-West Europe (Hayward & Ryland 1995) and realized that there is a problem with the gender of Botrylloides, various species of which now occur around the British Isles. The genus contains invasive species and is constantly in the news, so getting the gender right is important. The ruling in the Code (Art. is clear enough: a genus group name ending –oides is masculine, “unless its author, when establishing the name, stated that it had another gender or treated it as such by combining it with an adjectival species-group name in another gender form”.

    The World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) lists 19 species of Botrylloides that are considered valid. Eight, such as B. aureum, B. chevalense, and B. nigrum are neuter, nine are masculine including B.violaceus, altered from Oka’s (1927) violaceum with the annotation that the latter is an “incorrect original spelling”. This assertion is not explained and is rather  odd when a further eight have retained their neuter gender.

    Botrylloides was introduced by H. Milne Edwards (1841) with four included species: B. rotifera, B. rubrum and B. albicans, all new (pp. 85–88), and B. leachii (Savigny) (p. 88). Additionally, Botrylloides violaceus was used in the plate caption (p. 108).  This is clearly a lapse for Botryllus violaceus which, in the text, is described under Botryllus “proprement dits” (strictly speaking) (p.89), but still must be taken into account. The first specific name, rotifera, is the feminine of a properly compounded Latin adjective rotifer, -fera, -ferum; derived from rota, a wheel, and fero, ferre, to carry. The second name, rubrum, is clearly neuter. Botrylloides violaceus, whether a slip or not, implies a masculine gender. The contradiction of gender between the first two included species was noted by Giard (1872): “M Edwards en   créant le mot Botrylloides l’a fait du féminin ou du neutre.  Si du neutre, pourquoi B. rotifera? et si du féminin, pourquoi B. rubrum?” The remaining species, B. albicans and B. leachii, were not mentioned by Giard (1872), presumably because they carry no indication of gender, but his account leaves the unfortunate impression that only two species were included by Milne Edwards (1841).  So where does that leave the gender of Botrylloides?

    Ritter & Forsyth (1917) introduced Botrylloides diegensis (as masculine). Oka (1927), a decade later, treated the genus as neuter, as did Van Name (1945), including B. aureum Sars, B. nigrum Herdman, B. diegense (altering the gender from Ritter & Forsyth), and B. magnum (Ritter); so also did Tokioka (1953).  More recently, Kott (1985) took the same view, with B. magnicoecum Hartmeyer, B. perspicuum Herdman, B. violaceum Oka, though she later (1998) treated the genus as masculine, with B. perspicuus Herdman (from B. perspicuum) and B. violaceus Oka (from B. violaceum).  Why did she change her mind?  In recent years, Japanese authors (Tokioka 1970, Saito et al. 1981) also have used the masculine form.

    By introducing one species with feminine gender and one with a neuter gender, Milne Edwards (1841) did not satisfy the Code’s exception to its general rule “… that it had another gender  … combining it with an adjectival species-group name in another gender form”. He left mixed signals and for that reason the main provision of the Code (see above) applies. As with other genera ending in –oides, Botrylloides must be treated as masculine.  The spelling of all extant species names with neuter endings should be altered to masculine when opportunity arises; in particular, uniformity should be applied throughout the list in WoRMS.


    As stated by Kott (1985) the type species of Botrylloides is B. rotifera, designated by Ärnbäck Christie-Linde (1925). The use of a feminine adjective, rotifera, does not affect the conclusion that Botrylloides should have masculine gender.

    My thanks are due to Miguel Alonso-Zarazaga, Daphne Fautin, Gretchen Lambert, Gary Rosenberg and Judith Winston for their input.



Ärnbäck Christie-Linde, A.  (1925) On the generic names Botrylloides Milne Edwards and Metrocarpa Ärnbäck. Ark. Zool. 17b, No. 12, 1–6.

Giard, A.M.  (1872) Récherches sur les ascidies composées ou synascidies. Archs Zool. exp. gén. 1:501-704

Hayward, P.J. & Ryland, J.S. (1995) Handbook of the marine fauna of north-west Europe. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 800 pp.

Kott, P. (1985) The Australian Ascidiacea Pt 1, Phlebobranchia and Stolidobranchia. Mem. Qld Mus., 23, 1–440.

Kott, P. (1998.) Tunicata. In: Wells, A. & Houston, W.W.K. (Eds.) Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Vol. 34. Hemichordata, Tunicata, Cephalochordata. CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne, pp. 51–252, 259–261, 265–292.

Milne Edwards,  H. (1841) Observations sur les ascidies composées des côtes de la Manche, 1–110; (1842) Mem. Acad. Sci. Inst. Fr. 18: 217-326.

Oka, A. (1927) Zur kenntniss der japanischen Botryllidae. Proc. imp. Acad. Japan 3: 607-9

Ritter, W. E. & Forsyth, R. A. 1917. Ascidians of the littoral zone of southern California. U.C. Publ. Zool. 16: 439-512.

Saito, Y., Mukai, H. & Watanabe, H. (1981). Studies on Japanese compound styelid ascidians II. A new species of the genus Botrylloides and redescription of B. violaceus Oka. Publ. Seto Mar. Biol. Lab. 26: 357-368.

Tokioka, T. (1953). Ascidians of Sagami Bay. Iwanami Shoten, Tokyo. 315 pp.

Tokioka, T. (1970). Contributions to Japanese ascidian fauna XXV. Notes on the variations in Botrylloides violaceus Oka, with the description of a new subspecies tenuicoecus. Publ. Seto Mar. Biol. Lab. 18: 57-59.

Van Name, W.G. (1945).  The North and South American ascidians. Bull. Am. Mus. nat. Hist. 84:1-476.

World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) (Botrylloides 2004, 2007):

4. From Gerard Breton, Le Havre, France :

Below is a brief paper reporting about an unusual appearance of a population of Didemnum vexillum in a basin of the port of Le Havre, in September and October 2014.

   On 18th September 2014, during a dive of the association "Port Vivant" in a basin of the port of Le Havre (Eastern Channel, 49° 29' 20'' N; 0° 07' 07'' E), the so-called Bassin de la Barre, we noticed that the Didemnum vexillum, which were rather abundant between the lowest water level and the foot of the quay wall on the quay wall that we explored, were frequently affected by a curious morphological modification, that we nicknamed "the Didemnum's balloon disease".


The last picture on the right above, shows a "balloon" fallen on the sediment at the foot of the quay wall and deflated.




The picture (left) shows a population of "normal" Dvex and "balloon" Dvex. Right: a "balloon" which does not collapse when dropped carefully on a glove. © Tierry Morin- Port Vivant.


    Most of the colonies of Didemnum vexillum were inflated, "vesiculated", sometimes reaching a balloon shape of 1-6 cm in diameter. They are filled with seawater, not air or any gas. The openings of the "balloon" are in some cases the edge of the colony, in other cases, the common atrial siphons. Since the wall of the "balloon" is much thinner than the original colony, the color of the ballooned Dvex is from very pale yellowish to translucent greyish, and then, it look very much like some colonies of Diplosoma listerianum to naked eye. When carefully removed from the substrate, a Dvex

balloon keeps its spherical shape, but more often, it collapses.

    Two further dives, on 12th October 2014 and 24th October 2014, in the same basin, allowed to further define the extension of the "disease", the ballooned Dvex being present on nearly all substrates, quay walls, rocks, pontoons, between the lowest water level and the deepest - 7 m, regardless of the orientation, of the depth, in the 0.7 km or so explored quays and rocks. The vesiculated and "ballooned" colonies are the most frequent, but some ones have a "normal" yellowish color, with a firm "normal" consistency. They are scattered among the ballooned or vesiculated grey Dvex, and are very distinct. They seem to be, in average, nearer the surface. They are thought to be more recent colonies. Very rarely, we have met colonies with vesiculated parts and normal parts, but this may be due to an undetectableinterpenetration of two different colonies.



The colony in the center of the picture shows a vesiculated part and a "normal"  part. © Thierry Derycke.




All pictures but two © Gérard Breton - Port Vivant Gérard Breton, Association Port Vivant, Le Havre

14th November 2014



 I do not know what to do with this observation, it just reports field observations. Have any AN readers seen something like this? Francoise Monniot told me that she had seen it once, in the port of La Rochelle. I have collected specimens of both balloon and normal D. vexillum in alcohol and in sea water + formalin, if anyone wishes to examine or sequence a sample.




1. XVIII Iberian Marine Biology Symposium, Gijón, Spain, 2-5 September 2014.

The life and times of the introduced ascidian Styela plicata: Pathway to a holistic understanding.  M. C. Pineda1,2, S. Lopez-legentil2,3, X. Turon4

1Australian Inst. of Mar. Sci., Townsville, Queensland, Australia

2Departament de Biologia Animal, Universitat de Barcelona, Spain

3Center for Mar. Sci., Univ. of North Carolina, Wilmington, USA

Center for Advanced Studies of Blanes, Spain

   Styela plicata is a solitary ascidian introduced all around the world by ship traffic and seems to have many of the required features to become invasive. We aimed to summarize here the knowledge acquired about this species during the last years and to pinpoint the pathway for further research. The global genetic composition of this species, its genetic temporal structure, its reproductive features, the bacterial composition of its tunic, and its capacity to cope with stress during early life-history stages and adulthood have been recently assessed. Results indicate that S. plicata is an ancient introduced species that has been travelling around the globe through maritime transport for centuries. It inhabits harbours, marinas and artificial structures, tolerating high concentration of pollutants. In these habitats the species is a pest for bivalve cultures and a nuisance for infrastructure maintenance. Further, expansion to neighbouring natural environments should be regarded as a serious potential threat. Adults can respond to moderate levels of stressors by adjusting the production of stress-related proteins, but early stages are comparatively much more vulnerable to the harsh conditions that characterize the habitats where this species thrives. A prolonged reproductive period allows S. plicata to exploit temporal windows of favourable conditions and confers to it a competitive advantage compared to organisms with limited, seasonal reproduction events. Bacterial communities in S. plicata have been reported to be dynamic and could have the potential to aid host acclimation to new habitats by establishing relationships with beneficial, locally sourced bacteria. In addition, high genetic variability and the continual presence of larvae also guarantee further reintroduction events and spreading via ship traffic. At present, the distribution of S. plicata appears to be limited by high temperature and low salinities. However, further studies are required to determine other relevant factors regulating the spread of this species outside enclosed environments (e.g. competition, predation, hydrodynamics), and to understand the dynamics of the few populations co-habiting with native communities, in order to design adequate management and eradication plans should this species spread and become a threat to local biota.


2. 75TH Natl. Conference of the Unione Zoologica Italiana, Bari, September 22-25, 2014

Lectins and immunity in compound ascidians. Nicola Franchi, Filippo Schiavon, Loriano Ballarin, Department of Biology, University of Padova

   Lectins are proteins able to recognize and bind specific glycoconjugates, widely distributed among plants and animals. Most of them have agglutinating activity towards vertebrate erythrocytes and other animal cells, due to the presence of multiple carbohydrate recognition domains which bind to cell surface sugars. A great number of invertebrate lectins have been described in the last two decades: they show different specificities, sizes and physico-chemical properties and are believed to be involved in various processes, such as cell-cell interaction, fertilisation, morphogenesis and defence reactions.

Ascidians are invertebrate chordates phylogenetically close to vertebrates and the study of their immune responses can contribute to a better understanding of the complex immune system of vertebrates.

   In compound ascidians, lectins play an important role in opsonisation of foreign particles or cells having entered the organism. They can also induce cell proliferation and enhance the recruitment of immunocytes to the infection area. In the compound ascidian Botryllus schlosseri, our model organism, we recently identified a rhamnose-binding lectin (BsRBL) which can recruit phagocytes, activate their respiratory burst with the consequent production of microbicidal reactive-oxygen species, and stimulate phagocytosis of foreign target cell by opsonising them and inducing cytoskeletal changes in phagocytes. In addition, BsRBL induces the synthesis and release, by cytotoxic morula cells, of cytokines recognised by anti-IL-I and anti-TNF antibodies, with chemotactic activity towards cytotoxic immunocytes. It also triggers the degranulation of morula cells with the consequent release of the cytotoxic enzyme phenoloxidase. Results suggest an important role of BsRBL in Botryl/us immunobiology and support the existence of a cross-talk between B. schlosseri immunocytes.


3. The 9th Intl. Vanadium Symposium, June 29th - July 2nd, 2014, Univ. of Padova, Padova, Italy

Vanadium Accumulation in Ascidians: An Overview as a System. T. Ueki, N. Yamaguchi, Romaidi, Y. Isagob, H. Tanahashi.

   Ascidians are well known to accumulate extremely high levels of vanadium in their blood cells. The concentration of vanadium is determined in each species, and the highest one reaches 350 mM, which corresponds to 107 times that of sea water. How and why ascidians accumulate vanadium at such an extremely high levels? To address these questions, our research group has been trying to identify genes and proteins responsible for the accumulation and reduction of vanadium in vanadocytes, one type of blood cells, as well as the process of vanadium transport from sea water to blood cells through the branchial sac, intestine and blood plasma. Here, we would like to overview the accumulation steps as a system, especially related to concentration and chemical species of vanadium at each step, as were experimentally determined in a vanadium-rich ascidian Ascidia sydneiensis samea. Comprehensive analysis on each organ has already revealed several categories of protein families, such as vanadium-binding proteins and vanadium transporters. We would like to discuss possible participation of proteins at each step from biochemical viewpoint.


4. The 5th Int.l Conference on Green Technology, November 7th - 8th, 2014, National Islamic University, Malang, Indonesia.

Biotechnology and biomimetics: lessons from marine animals.

T. Ueki, Dept. of Biol., Graduate School of Sci., Hiroshima Univ.

   Marine animals are regarded as one of the best sources of materials for use in biotechnological or biomimetic applications. Our research group has attempted to identify metal-related genes from marine animals and to apply them in selective metal accumulation or efficient metal-removal systems. The most prominent factor is a family of vanadium-binding proteins, Vanabins, which were found only in vanadium-rich ascidians and were used successfully in copper and vanadium accumulation systems. In addition, we recently began to investigate the attachment and anti-fouling mechanisms of ascidians. In this paper, we review the history of biotechnology and biomimetics regarding marine animals, especially as they relate to our investigations of ascidians. We also introduce the situation in Japan and summarize biotechnological and biomimetic applications and provide a future prospective.


5. 60th Congresso de Genetica 2014, Guarujá SP, Brazil, August 26-29, 2014

Regeneration in ascidians: implications of developmental synchrony and ncRNAs.

Arianna S. Gutierrez1, Cristian A. Velandia2, Clara Bermudez-Santana2, Arjan Gittenberger3,4, Federico D. Brown1,5

1Department of Biological Sciences, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia,

2Department of Biology, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá, Colombia,

3GiMaRIS, Leiden, The Netherlands,

4Naturalis Biodiversity Center and Institute of Biology, Leiden University, The Netherlands

5Department of Zoology, Instituto de Biociencias, Univ. de Sao Paulo, Brazil


   To understand how major reproductive modes evolve during life history transitions and to explore ncRNA involvement in these transitions, we experimentally disrupted asexual modules of development of a colonial ascidian Symplegma brakenhielmi, and compared the genomes of solitary and colonial tunicates to associate specific ncRNA to putative mechanisms of asexual reproduction, regeneration, and budding. In the Styelidae, basal species are solitary or social (i.e. individuals or aggregates), whereas derived species are colonial (i.e. integrated individuals within a common tunic). Basal colonial styelid S. brakenhielmi does not synchronize budding and its buds generally develop independently at extracorporeal vessels that connect the individuals of the colony, whereas derived styelids Botryllus spp. and Botrylloides spp. bud all forming individuals synchronously, and generally develop by evagination of the lateral epidermis of adults. To show that S. brakenhielmi individuals show complete independence in development, we carried systemic bud or zooid removal in the colony and compared our results to previous observations in Botryllus schlosseri. Next, we studied hemocytes and analyzed proliferation in S. brakenhielmi to identify putative circulatory progenitor cells. Budding in ascidians requires a permanent supply of progenitor cells likely regulated by ncRNA pathways. Therefore by comparing the genomes of colonial ascidians Didemnum vexillum and Botryllus schlosseri to the genomes of solitary tunicates Ciona spp., Molgula spp., and Oikopleura dioica we generate ncRNA predictions and attempt to associate specific loci to the evolution of asexual modes of reproduction and regeneration. Our results support a stepwise integration of budding synchrony and developmental interaction of individuals during the evolution of coloniality, and raises new questions about ncRNA regulation in stem cell function of colonial marine chordates.


6. TWAS 25th General Meeting, Muscat, Oman, October 26-29, 2014 [TWAS is the hub for a global network of scientists and organizations working to advance science in the developing world]

Modular development and evolution of clonal marine chordates

A. S. Gutierrez1, C. A. Velandia2, C. Bermudez-Santana2, A. Gittenberger3, F. D. Brown1,4

1Departamento de Ciencias Biologicas, Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia

2Departamento de Biología, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogota, Colombia

3GiMaRIS, Leiden, The Netherlands

4Departamento de Zoologia, Instituto de Biociencias, Universidade de Sao Paulo, Brazil


   Colonial styelid ascidians form two types of organization. In derived species (i.e. botryllid ascidians) individuals of the colony are connected and integrated within a common tunic and new individuals form in weekly cycles of budding; in contrast, other colonial styelids present an aggregate organization, in which individuals are embedded within their own tunic and remain connected by extracorporeal tissues. The latter develop independently and by asynchronous budding. A sister species of the botryllids Symplegma brakenhielmi presents an intermediate form, i.e. individuals are well integrated, but development occurs in an apparently independent manner. To understand how major reproductive modes evolve during life history transitions, we experimentally disrupted asexual modules of development of a colonial ascidian Symplegma brakenhielmi by systemic bud or zooid removals in the colony and identification of putative circulatory progenitor cells involved in asexual reproduction. Budding in ascidians requires a permanent supply of progenitor cells likely regulated by ncRNA pathways. To associate specific ncRNAs to putative mechanisms of asexual reproduction, we compared the genomes of solitary Ciona intestinalis and C. savignyi and colonial Didemnum vexillum and Botryllus schlosseri. We generated ncRNA predictions and attempted to associate specific loci to the evolution of asexual modes of reproduction and regeneration. Our results support a stepwise integration of budding synchrony and developmental interaction of individuals during the evolution of coloniality, and raise new questions about ncRNA regulation in stem cell function of colonial marine chordates.


7. Intl. Invasive Sea Squirt Conference 5 (IISSC5) Woods Hole, Oct. 29-31, 2014. Many thanks to Mary Carman for organizing this very successful meeting. A few contributed abstracts are included below, but for a pdf of the complete program including all the abstracts, go to the bottom of the conference website page. 

Or the direct link for the full program and abstracts is

   The highlight of this year’s program was Walter Rhee’s Korean stir fry with Styela clava, plus raw Halocynthia roretzi (from Japan, imported frozen out of tunic) to dip in Korean hot sauce.


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Left: Walter Rhee (Univ. of Hawaii Dept. of Food Sci.); middle: closeup; arrow marks whole small Styela clava in tunic; right: Halocynthia roretzi thawed.


a) Wild and cultured edible tunicates: a review.  Richard Karney1, Walter Rhee2, Gretchen Lambert3, Mary R. Carman4

1Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group, Inc. Oak Bluffs, MA 02557

2University of Hawaii, Food Science & Human Nutrition Dept., Honolulu, HI 96822

3University of Washington Friday Harbor Laboratories, Friday Harbor, WA 98250

4Biology Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543


    Most tunicate species are not edible by humans but some solitary stolidobranchs in the Styelidae and Pyuridae families are harvested wild or cultured for food. The main species are Halocynthia aurantium, H. roretzi, Microcosmus hartmeyeri, M. sabatieri, M. sulcatus, M. vulgaris, Polycarpa pomaria, Pyura chilensis, Styela clava, and S. plicata, and they may be eaten raw, cooked, dried or pickled. Historically the Maoris ate Pyura pachydermatina in New Zealand and aboriginal people ate P. praeputialis in Australia, though it is now only used for fishing bait. There is a large market for cultured tunicates, especially among Asian populations. S. clava and S. plicata have become extremely abundant in many countries as non-native introductions; they could easily be harvested and sold as seafood, as could common species that have not previously been consumed such as Herdmania pallida. Disease and overexploitation can reduce cultured product and wild populations. Recently, the disease ‘soft tunic syndrome’ caused up to a 70% loss of H. roretzi crop in Korea, while harvesting wild P. chilensis reduced their richness three fold in some parts of Chile. Most aquaculture operations are located in bays with urban runoff where pollutants including heavy metals and toxic substances could accumulate in tunicates. Natural disasters like tsunamis will also negatively impact aquaculture. Nevertheless, with proper controls and monitoring, certain edible tunicate species that are currently an underutilized food in many parts of the world could be easily cultivated or the huge numbers of invaders could be harvested and marketed.


b) Alternative menthol sources for ascidian relaxation. Lauren M. Stefaniak1 and Johann Heupel2  

1James H. Oliver, Jr. Institute for Coastal Plain Science, Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, GA

2Marine Science Magnet High School of Southeastern Connecticut, Groton, CT


   Proper preservation of ascidians, particularly colonial ascidians, for morphological taxonomy requires specimens to be relaxed before fixation. Menthol crystals, either floated in sea water or dissolved in ethanol, are highly effective at relaxing ascidians, but are not readily obtainable at short notice. We compared the relaxation efficacy and cost of three sources of concentrated menthol (100% peppermint oil, peppermint extract, and Altoids® mints) that are readily available in stores to menthol crystals and menthol dissolved in ethanol. All menthol sources tested successfully relaxed Ciona intestinalis individuals in that the ascidians no longer reacted to a glass probe inserted in the oral siphon. However, full extension of specimens was more common when menthol crystals or menthol-in-ethanol were used. Being able to dry and reuse menthol crystals also make them a relatively low cost menthol source. Therefore, peppermint oil, peppermint extract, and Altoids® mints are all useful substitutes for menthol crystals, but menthol crystals, when available, remain the first choice when relaxing ascidians for preservation.


c)  A potential induced physical defense in a didemnid ascidian. Lauren M. Stefaniak1, Richard W. Osman2, and Robert B. Whitlatch3

1James H. Oliver, Jr. Institute for Coastal Plain Science, Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, GA

2Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Edgewater, MD

3Department of Marine Sciences, University of Connecticut, Groton, CT


   Spicules in ascidians are thought to serve a variety of functions including structural support, shading of photosynthetic symbionts, and defense. Like many species of didemnid ascidians, Didemnum vexillum Kott, 2002 has stellate, calcium carbonate spicules embedded in its tunic. In D. vexillum, spicule concentration is highly variable even within colonies, however, the mechanisms controlling spicule density are not well known. Qualitative observations showed that partial predation by dove snails (Costanachis spp.) on juvenile D. vexillum colonies resulted in whiter (greater spicule concentration) colonies, suggesting the potential for an induced physical defense. The inducible nature of spicules as a defense was tested by   exposing juvenile D. vexillum colonies to dove snail predation, potential dove snail chemical cues, or abiotic physical damage from a razor blade. The norm of reaction to increasing degrees of physical damage was tested by exposing colonies to different amounts of abiotic physical damage. We found that partial predation by dove snails and abiotic physical damage result in increased spicule density, while the presence of a snail without a predation event did not. Increasing the degree of physical damage to a colony resulted in an increased concentration of spicules.


d) Harbor networks as introduction patchworks: Contrasting distribution patterns of native and introduced ascidians.

López-Legentil S1, Legentil ML, Erwin PM1, Turon X2

1Dept. of Biology & Marine Biology, Univ. of North Carolina, Wilmington NC

2Center for Advanced Studies of Blanes, Spain

   Harbors and marinas are well known gateways for species introductions in marine environments but little work has been done to ascertain relationships between species diversity, harbor type, and geographic distance. Here, we sampled ascidians from 32 harbors along ca. 300 km of the NW Mediterranean coast and investigated patterns of distribution and spread related to harbor type (recreational, fishing, commercial) and geographic location using multivariate techniques. In total, 28 ascidians were identified at the species level and another 9 at the genus level based on morphology and genetic barcoding. Eight species were assigned to introduced forms, 15 were given native status and 5 were classified as cryptogenic. Aplidium accarense was reported for the first time in the Mediterranean and was especially abundant in 23 of the harbors. Introduced and cryptogenic species were abundant in most of the surveyed harbors, while native forms were rare and restricted to a few harbors. Significant differences in the distribution of ascidians according to harbor type and latitudinal position were observed. These differences were exclusively due to the distribution of introduced species. We obtained a significant correlation between geographic distance and ascidian composition, indicating that closely located harbors shared more ascidian species among them. This study showed that harbors act as dispersal strongholds for introduced species, with native species only appearing sporadically, and that harbor type and geographic location should also be considered when developing management plans to constrain the spread of non-indigenous species in highly urbanized coastlines.


e) Ascidian rapid assessment survey of North Carolina and Georgia marinas July 2014.

1Susanna López-Legentil, 2Gretchen Lambert, and 3Lauren M. Stefaniak

1Department of Biology & Marine Biology, Center for Marine Science, University of North Carolina Wilmington, 5600 Marvin K. Moss Ln, Wilmington NC 28409;

2University of Washington Friday Harbor Labs, 620 Univ. Road, Friday Harbor WA 98250;

3James H. Oliver, Jr., Institute for Coastal Plain Science, Georgia Southern University, P.O.Box 8056, Statesboro, Georgia 30460;


   We sampled 17 marinas along the North Carolina coast from July 16-23, 2014, from Southport to sites on Cape Hatteras, for native and introduced ascidians. Five sites had no ascidians, presumably due to low salinity resulting from prolonged and unusually heavy rainfall during the previous months. In fact, when compared with results obtained for Wrightsville Beach after a quick survey the previous month (June 2014), some species had totally disappeared, notably Didemnum duplicatum, which was extremely abundant in June. Data will be presented on all sites, the species present and their abundance. A total of 19 species were collected and barcoded. Of the 12 sites with ascidians, the most widespread and abundant species was the non-native Styela plicata (11 sites). Ascidia interrupta, Perophora viridis and Polyandrocarpa aff. maxima  were present at 6 sites; the former 2 are considered native, the latter cryptogenic. We thank Stephanie Villalobos for help with collecting.

   One of us (L.M.S.) sampled ascidians at 15 public boat launches along the Georgia coast and the Grays Reef National Marine Sanctuary dock from July 28-August 1. Surprisingly, only 4 species were recorded, with Molgula manhattensis the most widespread while Styela plicata was recorded at only one site. Low ascidian species richness may be due to pulses of low salinity during low tide at the sites sampled.  We thank Brianne Varnerin for help with collecting in Georgia. 


f) Marine bioinvasions in anthropogenic and natural habitats: an investigation of nonindigenous ascidians in British Columbia. Christina Simkanin1,2*, John Dower2, Glen Jamieson3, Thomas Therriault3

1 Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Edgewater, MD 21037, USA

2 University of Victoria, Victoria, B.C. V8W 3N5, Canada

3 Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Nanaimo, B.C. V9T 6N7, Canada


    As part of my doctoral research, I examined patterns of marine invasions across anthropogenic and natural habitats and explored processes that influence the establishment and spread of ascidian invaders. The goals of my work were four-fold. First, I examined the habitat distribution of marine nonindigenous species (NIS) spanning several taxonomic groups and geographical regions.  Second, I conducted subtidal surveys in anthropogenic and natural habitats and investigated the distribution of nonindigenous ascidians on Southern Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. Third, I tested methods for in-situ larval inoculations and utilized these techniques to manipulate propagule supply and assess post-settlement mortality of ascidians across habitat types. And fourth, I investigated the role of biotic resistance, through predation by native species, on the survival of ascidian colonies in anthropogenic and natural habitats.  Results showed that anthropogenic habitats are hubs for marine invasions and may provide beachheads for the infiltration of nearby natural sites. Field manipulations using the ascidian Botrylloides violaceus as a model organism, indicated that post-settlement mortality is high and that large numbers of larvae or frequent introduction events may be needed for successful initial invasion and subsequent infiltration of natural habitats.  Experiments also showed that predation by native species can limit the survival of B. violaceus in anthropogenic and natural habitats. These data contribute knowledge about the patterns and processes associated with habitat invisibility; provide insight into factors affecting colonization; and supply valuable information for predicting and managing invasions.


8. 2014 Pyeongchang Convention on Biological Diversity, Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea 29 September-17 October, 2014. Side-event, Improvement of biodiversity for sustainable development -Strategies and case studies.


Population study of solitary ascidian Herdmania momus in Jeju Island, Korea.

Changho Yi1, Ko young wook1, Choi Dong mun1, Rae-seon Kang1 and Jeong Ha Kim2

1Marine Ecosystem Research Division, Korea Instit. of Ocean Science & Technology; 2Dept. of Natural Sci., Sungkyunkwan Univ., Korea


   The density and habitat distribution of Herdmania momus population expanded surprisingly in a few years after their first appearance. This species is considered as the most dominant benthos in the coast of Jeju Island in recent years. In our study, we confirmed that water temperature is the main key of population dynamics of H. momus by controlling mortality and reproductive periods. They represented several similar characteristics with other invasive ascidians and accordance of blooming season with other problematic invasive species.

Addendum: In recent additional observations (not included in this poster), we found their distribution is still extending although their density has declined. Now we are planning to collect foreign samples for molecular works, and more communications might be needed. Contact Changho Yi for a copy of the complete poster.



1. DETERMINACION MORFOLOGICA Y MOLECULAR DE ASCIDIAS PROVENIENTES DE SANTA MARTA Y CARTAGENA COLOMBIA. Maria Jose Paucar, Engineering thesis (June 2014), ESPE, Universidad de las Fuerzas Armadas, Ecuador, Advisor: Federico D. Brown (Universidad de los Andes & Universidade de São Paulo)

    In this investigation the morphological and molecular identification of 11 ascidians collected in Santa Marta and Cartagena, Colombia was performed. Morphological species identification was performed based on literature. This research reports nine (Ascidian species) in Colombia, out of them, eight have not been identified before whereas one has already been reported in previous works. Two of these species recently characterized are invasive and therefore constitute a threat to the habitat of the Caribbean natural fauna. At the molecular level, the first 7 sequences of mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I gene of ascidians to Colombia was obtained. The sequences were aligned with 30 sequences from GenBank. Phylogenetic reconstruction methods of NJ, ME, UPGMA and ML were performed in Mega6. This investigation rebuilt the phylogeny of three of the major groups of tunicates: Polyclinidae, Styelidae and Pyuridae. In general, although the Styelidae and Polyclinidae topology has already been reported, Pyuridae showed a topology different from literature. Cytochrome oxidase I gene presents a low resolution to solve the phylogeny of tunicates, however it was useful to match the molecular and morphological results.




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