Research Article

Marine Biology

, Volume 151, Issue 5, pp 1839-1847

First online:

Genealogical relationships within and among shallow-water Ciona species (Ascidiacea)

  • Marie L. NydamAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University Email author 
  • , Richard G. HarrisonAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University

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In spite of historical and current interest in Ciona intestinalis and its congeners, little is known about evolutionary relationships among the members of the genus Ciona. Here 744-bp sequences of the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) gene are used to examine phylogenetic relationships among three described species (C. intestinalis, C. roulei, C. savignyi) sampled from multiple coastal sites in the Northeast Pacific (CA, USA), Northwest Atlantic (from New Hampshire to Connecticut, USA), Northeast Atlantic (Sweden and The Netherlands), and Mediterranean (Banyuls-sur-Mer, France). The samples were collected in June–October 2005. The COI sequences of Northeast Pacific/Mediterranean (Type A) and Northwest Atlantic (Type B) C. intestinalis differ by ∼12% and C. roulei is nested within Type B C. intestinalis. Ciona savignyi differs from all other haplotypes by 13–16%. A previously undescribed but morphologically distinct Ciona sp. found at the Banyuls-sur-Mer site was >10% divergent from all other haplotypes. Although these data arise from a single gene study, they indicate that further elucidation of species relationships within the genus and of the species’ distributions will be needed if continuing invasions and potential reproductive isolation are to be investigated.