Symplegma (Ascidiacea: Styelidae), a non-indigenous genus spreading within the Mediterranean Sea: taxonomy, routes and vectors

Angel Ramos-Espla A., Bitar G., Sghaier Y. R. , ÇINAR M. E. , Deidun A., Ferrario J., ...More

AQUATIC INVASIONS, vol.15, no.1, pp.44-62, 2020 (Journal Indexed in SCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 15 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2020
  • Doi Number: 10.3391/ai.2020.15.1.04
  • Title of Journal : AQUATIC INVASIONS
  • Page Numbers: pp.44-62


Symplegma is a genus of compound ascidians (Fam. Styelidae) with warm water affinities and distribution in tropical and subtropical waters of the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans. The first record of this genus (as S. viride) in the Mediterranean was from 1951 in the Levantine Sea, presumably entering the basin from the Red Sea through the Suez Canal. Subsequently, it has been expanding its distributional range northward along the Levantine Sea coast, probably following the prevailing surface current direction. Recently, Symplegma has colonized the Aegean, Ionian and Tyrrhenian Seas, where it is spreading quickly, most likely mediated by shipping (i.e., hull fouling). Some specimens from the Ionian Sea (specifically from Tunisia, Malta) present opaque tunics resembling the Indo-Pacific Symplegma bahraini; however, morphological studies suggest that the genus in the Mediterranean Sea is represented by a single species, Symplegma brakenhielmi. The taxonomy of S. brakenhielmi, as well as its spreading routes and possible introduction vectors are analysed.