The ascidian fauna along the Mediterranean coast of Israel: arrival and spread of non-indigenous species

Supervisor: Dr. Noa Shenkar

Ascidians (Phylum: Chordata, Class: Ascidiacea) are sessile, soft bodied, filter feeding organisms that occur in solitary and colonial forms in all the world’s oceans. They represent important components of food webs in a variety of benthic marine communities.

Ascidians are considered the closest living representative of the ancestral chordate, therefore, they have been extensively studied in the fields of evolutionary and developmental biology, immunology, as well as natural products chemistry, for their potential use in the pharmaceutical industry.

The group comprises approximately 3000 species found in all marine habitats. According to a meticulous literature survey the number of ascidian species along the Mediterranean coast of Israel is 57. This list is certainly incomplete as the number of species known from the Mediterranean is approximately 200.

The current study goals are: (1) To conduct a comprehensive survey of the ascidian fauna along the Mediterranean coast of Israel on artificial and natural substrates, and identify seasonal, geographical and environmental factors influencing the current ascidian distribution map (2) To morphologically identify the ascidian species collected, create a tabular key for the region, and promote the ascidian collection at The Steinhardt Museum of Natural History to enable both molecular and morphological studies in the future (3) To obtain COI sequences for molecular identification of the collected species, to facilitate accurate identification of native and non-indigenous species by countries of the region, and potentially identify the source of origin of some of the non-indigenous species.

The current research will significantly promote the study of ascidian taxonomy in the Mediterranean coast of Israel, with special emphasize on the arrival and spread of non-indigenous species. 

Ascidians (Phylum: Chordata, Class: Ascidiacea) are sessile, soft bodied, filter feeding organisms that occur in solitary and colonial forms in all the world’s oceans. They represent important components of food webs in a variety of benthic marine communities.

Ascidians are considered the closest living representative of the ancestral chordate, therefore, they have been extensively studied in the fields of evolutionary and developmental biology, immunology, as well as natural products chemistry, for their potential use in the pharmaceutical industry.

The group comprises approximately 3000 species found in all marine habitats. According to a meticulous literature survey the number of ascidian species along the Mediterranean coast of Israel is 57. This list is certainly incomplete as the number of species known from the Mediterranean is approximately 200.

The current study goals are: (1) To conduct a comprehensive survey of the ascidian fauna along the Mediterranean coast of Israel on artificial and natural substrates, and identify seasonal, geographical and environmental factors influencing the current ascidian distribution map (2) To morphologically identify the ascidian species collected, create a tabular key for the region, and promote the ascidian collection at The Steinhardt Museum of Natural History to enable both molecular and morphological studies in the future (3) To obtain COI sequences for molecular identification of the collected species, to facilitate accurate identification of native and non-indigenous species by countries of the region, and potentially identify the source of origin of some of the non-indigenous species.

The current research will significantly promote the study of ascidian taxonomy in the Mediterranean coast of Israel, with special emphasize on the arrival and spread of non-indigenous species. 

Grants