Cyclosalpa affinis

Cyclosalpa affinis (Chamisso, 1819) 
Phylum Chordata / Subphylum Urochordata / Class Thaliacea / Order Salpida / Family Salpidae
cyclosalpa and stolon

The cyclosalp group of salps are easily distinguished from all others by the chains of linked whorls in the aggregate phase. The bottom photo shows a solitary Cyclosalpa producing such a chain, which is formed asexually. Each whorl is made up of about a dozen zooids. The U-shaped gut of each individual is easily visible. Cyclosalpa in the solitary phase have a long tubular gut, rather than the tight ball typical of other types of salps. Solitary Cyclosalpa affinis have a relatively thick test, length up to 8 cm, with 7 muscle bands. These are the muscles that contract to pump water through the body for locomotion and feeding. This species tends to have a more robust test than the more common C. bakeri, and typically has a larger body size when seen in central California waters. It can also be distinguished from C. bakeri by the absence of lateral white patches (solitary) and posterior projections (aggregate). C. affinis is a widespread inhabitant of tropical and temperate oceanic waters, ranging throughout California and occasionally into the Gulf of Alaska.

Cyclosalpa affinis, video courtesy of Patrick Anders Webster, Carmel Bay CA, August 2014

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