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Ciona intestinalis
Image courtesy of Keith Hiscock,
Ciona intestinalis
Taxonomic Group: Tunicates
Common name: SEA VASE


The Sea Vase tunicate, Ciona intestinalis, is globally distributed and can be found on every continent except Antarctica. Because of this broad range, its native range is difficult to determine. It appears to be native to the North Atlantic, but is introduced to the South Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. It commonly fouls ships and docks and was likely transported around the globe by shipping. It was discovered as early as 1838 in Boston Harbor, Massachusetts, but whether native to America, Europe, or both coasts, is not yet known. Ciona intestinalis was first reported on the West Coast of North America in 1897 in San Diego Bay, California. Its established range currently extends from Ensenada, Mexico to Bodega Harbor, California, but it has been reported from as far north as British Columbia, Canada. Ciona intestinalis has negative economic impacts on shellfish aquaculture in Nova Scotia, Canada and South Africa where it is said to reduce the growth rates of cultured mussels and foul ropes and equipment. It is also a formidable competitor, quickly occupying space and potentially displacing native fouling species.

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Fofonoff PW, Ruiz GM, Steves B, Simkanin C, & Carlton JT (2018)
National Exotic Marine and Estuarine Species Information System.
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Marine Invasions Lab
Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

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