Stephan G Bullard and Mary R Carman

'University of Hartford, Hillyer College, West Hartford, CT 06117, USA 2Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA

Ascidians are common members of benthic marine communities. Due to their strong competitive abilities and their simple trophic requirements ascidians are highly invasive. Because they only need a hard surface for attachment and abundant particulate food to flourish, ascidians are easily introduced to new locations and can readily persist once established. Invasive ascidians often have considerable impact on invaded habitats. Not only can they affect benthic communities, but they also cause major problems for humans by overgrowing aquaculture equipment and organisms and by heavily fouling ships and man-made structures. Because ascidians have traditionally been of little direct economic value, much less is known about their biology than for other marine taxa (e.g., crustaceans, bivalves and teleosts). However, this is starting to change. Due to the impact invasive ascidians have had throughout the world in the past 25-30 years, ascidians have become the focus of significant scientific attention. Over the last few years a great deal of work has been conducted to learn more about ascidian ecology, to assess the impact of invasive ascidians on invaded systems, to prevent the spread of ascidians and to control them once they have become established in new areas. This review synthesizes the latest research on invasive ascidians and highlights areas for further study.

Ascidians, known by the common name sea squirts, are ubiquitous members of benthic marine communities. They are sessile as adults and grow attached to natural and man-made hard surfaces (e.g., rocks, bivalve shells, docks, boat hulls, etc). Aside from a few predatory deep sea species, ascidians are filter feeders that mainly feed on phytoplankton and bacteria.

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