Different genes, different niches

Ciona intestinalis is a highly successful invasive marine invertebrate that originated in Northern Europe, but has spread to all over the world. Recently, the genetic complex known as C. intestinalis has been found to correspond at least two distinct species.

Data resources used via GBIF : 1,000 species occurences
Ciona intestinalis by Robin Agarwal via iNaturalist

Ciona intestinalis. Photo CC BY-NC 4.0 2015 Robin Agarwal, via iNaturalist.

Ciona intestinalis is a highly successful invasive marine invertebrate that originated in Northern Europe, but has spread to all over the world. Recently, the genetic complex known as C. intestinalis has been found to correspond at least two distinct species. In Chile, the species is restricted to northern regions of the country, but may eventually find its way to important aquaculture centres in the south. Using GBIF-mediated occurrences and climate data, the researchers modeled ecological niches and found suitable habitats in both central and southern regions. They also did field sampling to validate the models, and indeed verified that southern regions of Chile had already been invaded. Their results also indicate that not only are there genetically distinct subgroups of C. intestinalis, but these also have different environmental preferences.

Citations

Januario SM, Estay SA, Labra FA & Lima M (2015) Combining environmental suitability and population abundances to evaluate the invasive potential of the tunicate Ciona intestinalis along the temperate South American coast. PeerJ 3: e1357. doi:10.7717/peerj.1357

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