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Talented Ascidians

amazing image

© J. Lecomte/CNRS Photothèque


 

They could be little dried flowers in an herbarium. But as researcher Jean-Michel Amouroux points out, we're actually looking at ten colonies of ascidians (sea squirts), a marine filter feeder. Ascidians take in water through an incurrent siphon, filter it, and retain the food particles. In fact, they often join others to share their excurrent siphon, rather like the central flue of a multiple-flue chimney. Their sizes vary from one centimeter long, as in this image of ascidians of the Botryllus family, up to several centimeters for edible species, which look rather like wrinkled potatoes. With their propensity for sticking to any hard surface, ascidians are a nightmare when it comes to ship hulls. Although ascidians haven't aroused much interest until now, it has recently been discovered that they produce anticancer substances, probably in symbiosis with unicellular algae.

 

Magali Sarazin

 

Contact: Jean-Michel Amouroux, Banyuls Laboratory for Biological Oceanography (Laboratoire d'océanographie biologique de Banyuls).

amouroux@obs-banyuls.fr

 

 

 


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