Class Ascidiacea Sea Squirts Figs 272279

The Ascidiacea, commonly known as sea squirts or ascidians, are the largest and most diverse class of the Tunicata, containing at least 3000 species worldwide.

In size they range from colonial zooids about 1 mm long to large solitary individuals of 20 cm or more. A large perforated pharynx supports the filtering mucous sheet secreted by the mid-ventral thoracic groove called the endostyle. The atrial (peribranchial) cavity almost completely surrounds the pharynx and the gut loop is embedded in the body wall, either behind or folded up in the pallial body wall beside the pharynx (outside the atrial cavity). Ascidans are always hermaphrodite, although either androgynous or protogynous, thus avoiding self-fertilisation.

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