The recently-described ascidian species Molgula tectiformis is a direct developer. Academic Article uri icon


  • Molgula tectiformis is a new ascidian species recently described by Nishikawa (1991). In Otsuchi Bay, Iwate, Japan, they are easily obtainable from cages for culturing scallops. We report here that M. tectiformis is another example of a direct developer: their embryonic development is lacking the tadpole larva. The fertilized egg is orange and about 150 microns in diameter. At 18 degrees C, the egg cleaves at about 20 min intervals and gastrulation occurs about 5 hr after fertilization. In contrast to conventionally-developing ascidians, M. tectiformis does not form a tadpole larva. Immediately before hatching, three stolons or ampullae begin to extend from the tailless embryo. After hatching the stolons mediate the attachment of the juvenile body to the substratum. Histochemistry for tissue-specific enzyme activity did not detect muscle-specific acetyl-cholinesterase, endoderm-specific alkaline phosphatase, and pigment cell-specific tyrosinase. In addition, in situ hybridization could not prove the presence of muscle actin gene transcripts in the embryo. These results suggest that these larval tissues do not differentiate in M. tectiformis embryos. Because M. tectiformis is common and gravid year-around in Otsuchi Bay, this direct developer provides the opportunity for further analysis of molecular changes during evolution that cause an alternative mode of development.

publication date

  • April 1997