Laboratory culture of Didemnum sp., an invasive colonial tunicate
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Laboratory culture of Didemnum sp., an invasive colonial tunicate

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    Didemnum sp. is an invasive colonial tunicate that is capable of out-competing native benthic species, resulting in loss of biodiversity, wreaking havoc on food webs, and having negative impacts on aquaculture (especially of other filter suspension feeders such as mussels). The purpose of this experiment was to culture Didemnum sp. in a controlled laboratory environment in order to determine the optimal conditions for growth and reproduction. Samples were collected from several locations on the coast of New Hampshire and Maine, and cultured at various temperatures and with various feeding regimes. Other factors, such as salinity, were controlled for the duration of the experiment. The samples died during every experimental treatment, preventing any growth data from being obtained. However, one set of samples were maintained for a short period (for the month of December), without undergoing any growth or reproduction before their death. As more is learned about Didemnum sp. and more becomes published, it becomes possible to begin determining what may have caused the samples to die. Possible causes of death may include desiccation, inadequate food, prolonged immersion in hyper-saline seawater, temperature shock, and nitrogenous waste buildup. The results of this project offer possible insight into future laboratory culture of Didemnum sp.
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