Spawning induction, development and culturing of the solitary ascidian Polycarpa mytiligera, an emerging model for regeneration studies

Tal Gordon*, Lachan Roth, Federico Caicci, Lucia Manni, Noa Shenkar, Noa Shenkar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Ascidians (phylum Chordata, class Ascidiacea) represent the closest living invertebrate relatives of the vertebrates and constitute an important model for studying the evolution of chordate development. The solitary ascidian Polycarpa mytiligera exhibits a robust regeneration ability, unique among solitary chordates, thus offering a promising new model for regeneration studies. Understanding its reproductive development and establishing land-based culturing methods is pivotal for utilizing this species for experimental studies. Its reproduction cycle, spawning behavior, and developmental processes were therefore studied in both the field and the lab, and methods were developed for its culture in both open and closed water systems. Results: Field surveys revealed that P. mytiligera's natural recruitment period starts in summer (June) and ends in winter (December) when seawater temperature decreases. Laboratory experiments revealed that low temperature (21 °C) has a negative effect on its fertilization and development. Although spontaneous spawning events occur only between June and December, we were able to induce spawning under controlled conditions year-round by means of gradual changes in the environmental conditions. Spawning events, followed by larval development and metamorphosis, took place in ascidians maintained in either artificial or natural seawater facilities. P. mytiligera's fast developmental process indicated its resemblance to other oviparous species, with the larvae initiating settlement and metamorphosis at about 12 h post-hatching, and reaching the juvenile stage 3 days later. Conclusions: Polycarpa mytiligera can be induced to spawn in captivity year-round, independent of the natural reproduction season. The significant advantages of P. mytiligera as a model system for regenerative studies, combined with the detailed developmental data and culturing methods presented here, will contribute to future research addressing developmental and evolutionary questions, and promote the use of this species as an applicable model system for experimental studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number19
JournalFrontiers in Zoology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 11 Jun 2020


  • Development
  • Model systems
  • Polycarpa mytiligera
  • Red Sea
  • Reproduction
  • Spawning
  • Tunicates


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