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Tunicates





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Posted by Merry on June 08, 2010 at 09:35:39:


Recently, So. Cal. photogs have been making drift dives several miles offshore, returning with stunning photos and video of gelatinous animals. Thanks to these photos, Phil and I have enjoyed seeing salps, the pelagic tunicates, in amazing detail.

Dive conditions being what they are, we decided to take a closer look at the sessile (or attached) tunicate species that live on dock floats and pilings. We found a surprising array of both colonial and solitary species that we had never seen before. Sessile tunicates arenít as glamorous as their glassy, jet-propelled relatives, but they come in a variety of colors and shapes.

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For the most part, these dock tunicates are crammed next to each other. Amid the hodgepodge of tunicate siphons, encrusting tunicates, bryozoans, sponges, algae, and the occasional barnacle compete for space. The tough, outer covering of some tunicates provides superstructure for more of the same.

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These delicate, transparent species are growing in the shade.

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Tunicates spend their time filter feeding. Water and nutrients are taken in through the larger, incurrent siphon. Minute food particles are carried by a stream of mucus to the stomach. In this photo, you can see digested food in the gut that will be discharged through the smaller excurrent siphon.

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Tunicate City embraces a world of even smaller animals. Tiny amphipods, worms, microscopic crustaceans, and protozoans abound, if only we could see them!




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