In search of suffocating sea squirt

by 5m Editor
24 May 2006, at 1:00am

CONNECTICUT - Armed with sonar maps, cameras and a remote-controlled vehicle that looked ready for lunar exploration, University of Connecticut scientists plumbed the bottom of Long Island Sound on Tuesday for a slimy quarry. The sea squirt, a blob-shaped animal with exponential reproductive powers, threatens to snuff out young lobsters and other shellfish. Like the zebra mussel, which bonds to boats and can clog pipes at sewage-treatment plants, the sea squirt is an invasive species that UConn researchers believe hitched a ride on an ocean-faring vessel from Asia and dropped into the Sound. There are about 3,000 known species of sea squirts. The one drawing attention here is known as didemnum. It looks like a mass of rubbery goo and can attach to anything from marina pilings to ship hulls to the grainy, sandy bottom of the Sound. "This thing has the potential for causing significant economic impact when it attaches to the floor of the Sound, where it blankets and suffocates shellfish and lobsters," said Ivar Babb, director of UConn's Undersea Research Center at Avery Point in Groton. "They have no known predators. Their surfaces have a pH level of 2, which makes them quite acidic. Nothing grows on it." Source: The Connecticut Post

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