Genetic Identification of Tunicate Species:

We are currently developing a protocol to genetically identify tunicates, or “sea squirts”, from their DNA. Tunicates are filter feeders can be either solitary or colonial.  Thanks to a morphological identification from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution scientist Mary Carman, we know that there are native species of tunicates currently present in Edgartown Great Pond.  We are interested in developing a protocol to identify cryptic tunicate species that are hard to differentiate morphologically. There are a native solitary tunicate species in our Island ponds and there are also some non-native and invasive colonial species.   This video  is about an invasive colonial species of tunicate found in Stonewall Pond in Chilmark:  


In January we extracted DNA at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, from a tunicate collected in Edgartown Great Pond. We are currently in the process of optimizing the conditions necessary to amplify three genes of interest.  Stay tuned, we’ll keep you posted about the results of this new project.



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