Image DSCF1526. Tunicate colony of a species of the genus Didemnum encrusting and cementing a pebble gravel seabed and crowding a dark orange anemone (lower part of photo). Note the relatively few holes in the mat where the gray background is visible. Northern Georges Bank (41 deg 54.429 min N lat, 67 deg 27.146 min W lon). Water depth 59 m (194 ft). November 2004. Width of specimen shown is 9 inches. Collectors: Page Valentine, Jeremy Collie, and Robert Reid. Photo credit: Dann Blackwood, U.S. Geological Survey.
Image DSCF1537. Underside of tunicate mat in image DSCF1526 showing pebble gravel cemented by colonial tunicates (pale yellow color). Note the relatively few holes in the mat where the gray background is visible. Northern Georges Bank (41 deg 54.429 min N lat, 67 deg 27.146 min W lon). Water depth 59 m (194 ft). November 2004. Width of specimen shown is 5.6 inches. Collectors: Page Valentine, Jeremy Collie, and Robert Reid. Photo credit: Dann Blackwood, U.S. Geological Survey.
The invasive sea squirt that federal and university researchers discovered on Georges Bank a year ago is flourishing in U.S. waters near the U.S.-Canada boundary, a joint research team announced today following a research cruise that concluded last week.
Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the University of Rhode Island estimate that mats made of thousands of individual squirts infest a 40 square mile area of seabed that is highly productive for fish and sea scallops. In large parts of the affected area, the sea squirts cover 50 percent or more of the seabed. The Georges Bank infestation is unique, the only known occurrence of this magnitude in a major offshore fishing ground.
Sea squirts are tunicates, a type of sea life with a primitive spinal cord and a firm, flexible outer covering called a "tunic," from which the name derives. A filter-feeding species of the genus Didemnum, they form dense mats, made of thousands of individuals, by attaching to firm substrates such as gravel, sea scallops, mussels, docks and other structures, and even seaweed. Tunicates can overgrow sea scallops and mussels, and they may affect other species of clams and worms that live in the seabed below the tunicate colony. An "invasive species" is one that is not native to an ecosystem, and that may harm that ecosystem if introduced.
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