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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. &quot;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,&quot; said Ivar Babb, director of UConn&#39;s Undersea Research Center at Avery Point in Groton. &quot;They have no known predators. Their surfaces have a pH level of 2, which makes them quite acidic. Nothing grows on it.&quot; <i>Source: The Connecticut Post</i>

5m Editor