Florida today feature UCF students’ research

Biologists who study Mosquito Lagoon’s oyster reefs keep seeing sea squirts they suspect may be an exotic species somehow transplanted from Panama.

This little squirt adds to a long, growing list of species that may harm the habitats of natives to the Indian River Lagoon — another current worry of environmentalists and others.

Biologists don’t know how long the slimy squirt’s been here. And it seems to snap back quicker and more plentiful from cold weather that kept it in check in recent years.

The colorful, gooey species, thought to be Botrylloides nigrum, is of concern because it may hinder oyster larvae from attaching to adult oyster shells, a key stage of development.

But whether the squirt’s “invasive” or even harmful remains an open question, biologists say.

“It’s important for people to know that it’s not an obvious answer,” said Linda Walters, a University of Central Florida biologist.

Other lagoon species that could impact fish and other native species include: Titan acorn, or “pink” barnacle; Australian white-spotted jellyfish; Pacific lionfish; and the Asian green mussel.

Read the rest of the story at Florida Today here.


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