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Salps are harmless, gelatinous-bodied tunicates found commonly in cold waters in equatorial, temperate, and cold regions, with the highest concentrations found in the waters off Antarctica. They are tube or jar shaped in appearance, often between 1 and 10 cm in length, and mostly transparent. Their life history is complex, and alternates between solitary and aggregate (i.e. chain of attached individuals) phases, as well as sexual and asexual forms. Salps are generalist feeders or grazers, and consume a wide range of prey and particles that consist of bacteria, flagellates, diatoms, radiolarians, detritus, copepod parts, and pteropods.
In the Mid-Atlantic region, many studies have been conducted to understand life history, feeding preference, behavioral and spatial ecology, population dynamics, and so on. Species such as Thalia democratica, Cyclosalpa affinis and Salpa cylindrica are common in New Jersey waters; extensive populations have been reported off the Mid-Atlantic Bight region on several occasions (Vargas and Madin 2004). Some studies have sought to identify causes of blooms (large aggregations of individuals) which can be a nuisance to beach goers when large numbers of salps wash ashore (Kramer 2002). It is suspected that increased abundance of salps near shore may be due to westerly winds; winds that drive warmer, surface water out to sea; and deeper, colder water ashore (Philly.com 2009). When phytoplankton or other sources are abundant, salps move into the area where rapid reproduction occurs, eventually leading to a short-lived bloom. The bloom ceases when all prey/particles are consumed.
Kramer, P. (2002). Towards an understanding of salp swarm dynamics. Source: www.ices.dk/products/CMdocs/2002/N/N1202.PDF.
Philly.com (2009). Salps invade southern New Jersey beaches. August 6, 2009.
Tasmanian Aquaculture & Fisheries Institute (2008). The Salp Fact Sheet. Source: http://www.tafi.org.au/zooplankton/imagekey/thaliacea/index.html.
Vargas, C. V. and L. P. Madin (2004). Zooplankton feeding ecology: clearance and ingestion rates of the salps Thalia democratica, Cyclosalpa affinis and Salpa cylindrica on naturally occurring particles in the Mid-Atlantic Bight. J. of Plankton Research. 26(7): 827-833.
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