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Morphological characterization of the tunic in the edible ascidian, Halocynthia roretzi (Drasche), with remarks on ‘soft tunic syndrome’ in aquaculture

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‘Soft tunic syndrome’ is a serious problem in the aquaculture of the edible ascidian, Halocynthia roretzi (Drasche), and often leads to mass mortality. Here, we describe the tunic morphology of intact and diseased ascidians to reveal structural differences between them. Morphologically, diseased tunics are not very different from intact tunics, although the former are thinner and softer than the latter. While several types of cells are distributed in the tunic, the cell types and their cytomorphologies were almost identical in both groups. As bacterial/protozoan cells were not found in either intact or diseased tunics, they are not the direct cause of soft tunic syndrome. The most remarkable difference was in the bundles of tunic fibres that compose the tunic matrix; in intact tunics, the thick bundles interlace to form a firm matrix, whereas in soft tunics, the tunic fibres do not form thick bundles. Furthermore, areas of low fibre density were found in diseased tunics. Therefore, soft tunic syndrome probably causes inhibition of bundle formation and degradation of tunic bundles, creating areas of low fibre density, although the causes remain unknown.

Keywords: aquaculture; ascidian; soft tunic syndrome; tunic cells; tunic fibres; ultrastructure

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1:  Department of Chemistry, Biology and Marine Science, University of the Ryukyus, Nishihara, Okinawa, Japan 2:  Division of Biology, Nihon University School of Medicine, Itabashi, Tokyo, Japan 3:  Department of Biochemistry, Graduate School of Pharmaceutial Sciences, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan

Publication date: May 1, 2009

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