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Overview

Brief Summary

The vase tunicate has a thin, smooth, weak sac. It is also translucent. Nevertheless, the sac is very tough. These animals are eaten in countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. They cut open the sac and slurp the animal up. Be aware if you plan on eating one that it makes some people feel very miserable! They discover that they are allergic.
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Comprehensive Description

Description

This species is a simple, solitary ascidian, with a thin outer covering or tunic. Overall shape is cylindrical, similar to a vase. The body measures 4-15 cm in length, and attaches to the substrate at its base. The oral and atrial siphons are positioned close together at the anterior end of the body. Overall, the tunic is smooth and translucent, lacking any pigment flecks. A diagnostic red spot at the end of the sperm duct is visible through the tunic.

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Description

 Ciona intestinalis is a large solitary sea squirt which grows up to 15 cm in length. The body is soft, retractile and a pale translucent greenish/yellow, through which the internal organs are visible. Sometimes there are orange bars on the body. There are two openings or siphons which may have yellow margins with orange/red pigment spots.Also sometimes known as a sea vase.
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Description

A large solitary seasquirt with a soft gelatinous cylindrical body and conspicuous oral and atrial siphons. The test is semi-transparent, the animal greenish with orange or yellow bars on the branchial sac. At some times or in some places all individuals will have the whole test deep orange in colour. The margins of the siphons have characteristic yellow marks. 50-80mm tall. The soft texture and yellow marks around the siphons are totally characteristic of this species.
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Distribution

semi-cosmopolitan
  • UNESCO-IOC Register of Marine Organisms
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Geographic Range

Ciona intestinalis is well distributed throughout the world, including many European oceans (Ricketts, et al 1985).

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Ciona intestinalis has been introduced in the Northeast Pacific, with records ranging from Washington to Mexico. This species also has been collected from other locations around the world, including parts of South Africa, southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, and South America. In the Atlantic, the species is cryptogenic, with a geographical range that includes northeast United States, Canada, and Greenland, and stretches across northern Europe, Great Britain, and the Mediterranean. Its native geographical range likely includes northern Europe, but remains unclear (Therriault and Herborg 2008, Zhan et al. 2010).

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Widely distributed all round the British Isles and reported from many parts of the world.
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Arctic to Rhode Island
  • North-West Atlantic Ocean species (NWARMS)
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

All the animals in the family Cionidae are called tunicates because they have a "tunic" of cellulose-like substance that covers the body. In this tunic are scattered cells, nerves, and blood vessels (Larousse 1967). The animals in the genus Ciona are known for their soft tunics and flexible bodies because the upper part of their bodies can be drawn into the lower part, "like the finger of a glove" (Nichols and Cooke 1971). A branching vascular system is interlaced within the entire tunic, which makes up about 60% of the animal's weight (Grzimek 1972).

The Ciona intestinalis grows to be about 120 mm (5 in) high and is simple and elongated. It is a sessile, usually attached to a substrate such as seeweed, solitary, and non-colonial organism. It is greenish, translucent, and tubular with terminal inhalent and sub-terminal exhalent siphons (openings). The inhalent siphon is surrounded by eight distinct lobes and the exhalent siphon by six; the lobes are interposed with red or orange pigment spots. The retractor muscles, gut, gonads, and large filter-feeding and respiratory pharynx can sometimes be seen through the body wall (Coleman 1991).

The pharynx has a ring of tentacles at the beginning that prevents large objects from entering it. It then gets larger, and the walls contain many gill slits lined with cilia. The sweeping movement of these cilia sets up the current circulation of water from the pharynx to the alimentary canal and back out to the exterior. An organ known as the endostyle lies on the floor of the branchial chamber; it is believed to be the precursor to the thyroid gland. The endostyle secretes mucus that traps food particles, and then the cilia lining the endostyle pass the mucus to the dorsal midline of the pharynx "where it is rolled into a mucus rope" (Larousse 1967). The rope is then passed to the oesophagus, stomach, and intestine, and faecal pellets are discharged through the atrial opening. These animals contain few blood vessels, no capillaries, and the circulatory system is made up of haemocoelic cavities. The neural gland contains the gonatropic substances and is thought to match the pituitary gland in vertebrates (Larousse 1967).

The larva of the Ciona intestinalis is dispersive, lasting only 36 hours. It contains a notochord within its muscular tail that is lost at metamorphosis, a dorsal nerve cord, a brain and sense-organs. In its life-history, the tunicate shows retrogressive evolution because the larva contains more features similar to the vertebrates than the adult does (Larousse 1967).

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Look Alikes

In the Northeast Pacific, Ciona intestinalis is most similar to another non-native species found in the region, C. savignyi Herdman, 1882.

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Ecology

Habitat

bathyal of the Gulf and estuary
  • North-West Atlantic Ocean species (NWARMS)
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Ciona intestinalis are usually found in silty conditions in 0-500 meters (1640 feet) of water. Most are found near rocky shores and estuaries, where the tide of the ocean meets a river current. They are often found growing in great numbers on manmade structures such as piers, pilings, and even in marine aquaria (Coleman 1991). They, and many other species in the class Ascidiacea, are also "common fouling organisms" on buoys, pier-piles, and hulls (Larousse 1967).

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Depth range based on 418 specimens in 3 taxa.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 69 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 232
  Temperature range (°C): 6.589 - 16.315
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.326 - 18.472
  Salinity (PPS): 18.622 - 38.444
  Oxygen (ml/l): 3.475 - 6.746
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.095 - 1.228
  Silicate (umol/l): 0.987 - 28.168

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 0 - 232

Temperature range (°C): 6.589 - 16.315

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.326 - 18.472

Salinity (PPS): 18.622 - 38.444

Oxygen (ml/l): 3.475 - 6.746

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.095 - 1.228

Silicate (umol/l): 0.987 - 28.168
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

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 Found from the lower shore down to at least 500 m. Often common in man-made environments such as harbours and marinas. Grows on bedrock and boulders but also artificial surfaces such as metal and concrete. Other species such as algae are also used as substrata. Ciona intestinalis prefers habitats with low wave exposure and some water flow.
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Often abundant and conspicuous in sheltered areas with some current, often on man-made structures, wrecks, buoys, ropes, etc. Also a component of moderately exposed rocky shallow sublittoral communities, but usually only as solitary individuals.
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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Ciona intestinalis feed mainly on fine detrital particles and phytoplankton (Coleman 1991). During the cirulation of water through the large gill basket, food particles are taken from the water and the endostyle secretes mucus to trap the food. It is then passed to the dorsal midline of the pharynx where it is rolled into a mucus rope and passed to the stomach. From here it passes to the intestine, and the faecal pellets formed go from the anus to the atrial opening where they are expelled from the body (Larousse 1967).

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General Ecology

Ecology

Relatively short-lived and fast-growing but not seasonal in most habitats. Ciona populations show tremendous fluctuations of numbers over a period of years and may be very opportunistic, rapidly colonising new structures or areas cleared by abnormal fluctuation of temperature or salinity.
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Diet

plankton feeder
  • North-West Atlantic Ocean species (NWARMS)
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Reproduction

The life span of most ascidians is about one year (Grzimek 1972). The Ciona intestinalis is hermaphroditic and releases sperm and eggs through the exhalent siphon. Fertilization occurs at sea, and a tadpole-like larva is formed about 25 hours later. The larva lasts about 36 hours, depending on the temperature of the area, after which it settles and metamorphoses into an adult (Coleman 1991).

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Ciona intestinalis

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 98
Specimens with Barcodes: 99
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Barcode data: Ciona intestinalis

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 47 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.  Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.  See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

ACTAGAGTT------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------GATATAGCT------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ATTTTTTCTTTGCATTTAGCTAGAGTTTCTAGTATTTTAAGATCAGTTAATTTTTTAGTTACTTTATTTAATATAAAAAATAAAAGAAAATCAATAAGTAATTTAAGTTTATTTTGTTGATCTTTAATTGTTACAACTATTTTACTAGTACTATCACTTCCTGTTTTAGCTGCA---GCAATTACTATATTATTATTTGATCGAAATTTTAATACTACGTTCTTTGATCCGAATGGGAGAAGAGATCCAATTTTATATCAACATTTATTTTGATTCTTTAGACATCCAGAAGTTTATATTTTAATTTTACCTAGATTTAGAATAATTAGTCATGTAATTGTTTTTTATTCTAGAAAAGAT---AATATTTTTAGGTATTATAGAATAGTTTGAGCAATGAGGGGTATTAGATTCCTTAGGTTTTTAGTATGAGCTCATCATATATTTAGTGTAAGAATAGATGTTGATTCTCGAGCTTATTTTACTTCTGCTACTATAATTATTGCTGTCCCTACAAGAATTAAAGTGTTTTCCTGAGTTTCA---ACTTTATTAAGGGCT---AAAATTCATTGAAGATTACCACTTTTATGAGCATATAGATTTTTATTTTTATTCACTATTAGAGGGTTAACTAGAATTGTTTTAGCTAATTGTAGTTTAGATCTTGTTCTTCATGATACATACTATGTGGTTGCTCATTTTCACTATGTA---TTATCAATAAGAGCCGTA------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------TTG
-- end --

Download FASTA File
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Genomic DNA is available from 1 specimen with morphological vouchers housed at Queensland Museum
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Genomic DNA is available from 1 specimen with morphological vouchers housed at Australian Museum, Sydney
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Conservation

Conservation Status

The Ciona intestinalis are not an endangered species; therefore, there are no conservation details on them.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Ciona intestinalis are problematic for marine aquaria keepers because they settle within the metal plumbing pipes and filters; this does not occur when these structures are made of plastic (Nichols and Cooke 1971). The concentration of them on piers, pilings, buoys, and ship hulls can also be a nuisance to humans (Coleman 1991, Larousse 1967).

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The Ciona intestinalis has no known benefit for humans.

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Wikipedia

Ciona intestinalis

Ciona intestinalis (vase tunicate) is an ascidian (sea squirt), a tunicate with very soft tunic. It is a globally distributed cosmopolitan species. Since Linnaeus described the species, Ciona intestinalis has been used as a model invertebrate chordate in developmental biology and genomics.[1] Recent studies have shown that there are at least two, possibly four, sister species.[2][3][4] By anthropogenic means, the species has invaded various parts of the world and is known as an invasive species.[5][6]

Although Linnaeus first categorised this species as a kind of mollusk, Alexander Kovalevsky found a tadpole-like larval stage during development that shows similarity to vertebrates. Recent molecular phylogenetic studies as well as phylogenomic studies support that sea squirts are the closest invertebrate relatives of vertebrates.[7] Its full genome has been sequenced using a specimen from Half Moon Bay in California, USA,[8] showing a very small genome size, less than 1/20 of the human genome, but having almost full sets of genes sharing almost all sets of genes but one copy for almost all genes.

Appearance[edit]

Ciona intestinalis is a solitary tunicate with a cylindrical, soft, gelatinous body, up to 20 cm long. The body colour and colour at the distal end of siphons are major external characters distinguishing sister species within the species complex.[9]

The body of Ciona is bag-like and covered by a tunic, which is a secretion of the epidermal cells. The body is attached by a permanent base located at the posterior end, while the opposite extremity has two openings, the buccal and atrial siphons. Water is drawn into the ascidian through the buccal (oral) siphon and leaves the atrium through the atrial siphon (cloacal).

Ecology[edit]

Ciona intestinalis is a hermaphroditic broadcast spawner but cannot self-fertilize.[10] Eggs and sperm, when released, can stay in the water column for 1 to 2 days while the larvae are free-swimming for 2 to 10 days.

Ciona intestinalis is considered to be an invasive species and grows in dense aggregations on any floating or submerged substrate, particularly artificial structures like pilings, aquaculture gear, floats and boat hulls, in the lower intertidal to sub-tidal zones. It often grows with or on other fouling organisms. It is thought to spread to new areas mainly through hull fouling. Since its larvae can live for up to 10 days, this species may also be transferred through the release of bilge or ballast water.

To avoid spreading this organism, fish and shellfish harvesters should avoid transferring harvested shellfish and fishing gear to other areas. Gear should be thoroughly dried before transfer. Boat hulls should be inspected and, if necessary, thoroughly cleaned and disinfected with bleach or vinegar and dried before moving to other areas. Any organisms removed from boat hulls or gear should be disposed of on land. Bilge water should be released on land or disinfected.

Hox genes[edit]

C. intestinalis is one of the first animals to have its full genome sequenced, in 2002. It has a relatively small genome (about 160 Mbp) consisting of 14 pairs of chromosomes with about 16,000 genes.[11] The draft genome analysis identified nine Hox genes, which are Ci-Hox1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, and 13.[12] Ciona savignyi, the closest relative of Ciona intestinalis, also have the same set of Hox genes. The organization of Hox genes is only known for C. intestinalis among ascidians. The nine Hox genes are located on two chromosomes; Ci-Hox1 to 10 on one chromosome and Ci-Hox12 and 13 on another. The intergenic distances within the Ciona Hox genes are extraordinarily long. Seven Hox genes, Ci-Hox1 to 10, are distributed, spanning approximately half the length of the chromosome. Comparisons to the Hox gene expressions and locations in other species suggest that the ascidian genomes are under a dispersing condition.[13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Satoh, Nori (2003). "The ascidian tadpole larva: comparative molecular development and genomics.". Nature Reviews Genetics 4: 285–295. doi:10.1038/nrg1042. 
  2. ^ Suzuki, Miho M; Nishikawa T; Bird A (2005). "Genomic approaches reveal unexpected genetic divergence within Ciona intestinalis.". J Mol Evol 61: 627–635. doi:10.1007/s00239-005-0009-3. 
  3. ^ Caputi, Luisi; , Andreakis N, Mastrototaro F, Cirino P, Vassillo M, Sordino P. "Cryptic speciation in a model invertebrate chordate.". Proceeding of the National Academy of Science USA 104: 9364–9369. 
  4. ^ Zhan, A; Macisaac HJ; Cristescu ME. "Invasion genetics of the Ciona intestinalis species complex: from regional endemism to global homogeneity.". Molecular Ecology 19: 4678–4694. 
  5. ^ Blum J.C., Chang, AL., Liljesthröm, M., Schenk, M.E., Steinberg, M.K. & Ruiz, G.M., 2007. The non-native solitary ascidian Ciona intestinalis (L.) depresses species richness. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 342, 5–14.
  6. ^ Herridge, Paul (June 11, 2013). "The vase tunicate has landed". The Southern Gazette (Marystown, Newfoundland and Labrador). Retrieved June 26, 2013. 
  7. ^ Putnam, NH; Butts T, Ferrier DE, Furlong RF, Fellsten U et al. "The amphioxus genome and the evolution of the chordate karyotype.". Nature 453 (7198): 1064–71. doi:10.1038/nature06967. 
  8. ^ Dehal, P; Satou Y, Campbell RK et al. "The draft genome of Ciona intestinalis: insights into chordate and vertebrate origins.". Science 298: 2157–2166. doi:10.1126/science.1080049. 
  9. ^ Sato, Atsuko; Satoh N.; Bishop JDD (2012). "Field identification of the ascidian species complex Ciona intestinalis in the region of symatory.". Marine Biology 159: 1611–1619. doi:10.1007/s00227-012-1898-5. 
  10. ^ Harada, Y; Takagi Y et al. (2008). "Mechanisms of self-fertility in a hermaphroditic chordate.". Science 320: 548–50. doi:10.1126/science.1152488. 
  11. ^ Shoguchi et al., Molecular Cytogenetic Characterization of Ciona intestinalis Chromosomes. Zoological Science, 22, 2001
  12. ^ Dehal, P; Satou Y, Campbell RK et al. "The draft genome of Ciona intestinalis: insights into chordate and vertebrate origins.". Science 298: 2157–2166. doi:10.1126/science.1080049. 
  13. ^ Ikuta, Tetsuro, and Hidetoshi Saiga. "Organization of Hox genes in ascidians: Present, past, and future." Developmental Dynamics 233.2 (2005): 382-89.
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