The sea squirt Ciona is a marine invertebrate closely related to vertebrates. Its simplicity and invariant cell lineage make it a powerful model for the study of development, evolution, and neurobiology. Ciona has provided fundamental insights into the ancestry and evolution of vertebrate systems, including neural crest cells, heart morphogenesis, and expansion of the central nervous system.
- Its Latin name literally translates to “Pillar of Intestines.”
- Ciona intestinalis is a tunicate, the only animals to synthetize cellulose.
- Its larvae have one of the smallest functioning brains.
(ID Card Photo Credit: Laurence Lemaire | Equipment: Zeiss 880 confocal microscope with Airyscan detector)
Learn more about sea squirts and the MBL
Laboratory Culture of the Ascidian Ciona intestinalis (L.): A Model System For Molecular Developmental Biology Research | MBL Archives
LabBits: A media tip sheet from the Marine Biological Laboratory | MBL Archives
Sea Squirt Symbionts! | MBL 2011 Microbial Diversity Course
Dehal P, et al. The draft genome of Ciona intestinalis: insights into chordate and vertebrate origins. Science. 2002 Dec 13;298(5601):2157-67. doi.org/10.1126/science
Imai KS, Levine M, Satoh N, Satou Y. Regulatory blueprint for a chordate embryo. Science. 2006 May 26;312(5777):1183-7. doi.org/10.1126/science
Cao, C., Lemaire, L.A., Wang, W. et al. Comprehensive single-cell transcriptome lineages of a proto-vertebrate. Nature 571, 349–354 (2019). doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1385-y
Ryan K, Lu Z, Meinertzhagen IA. The CNS connectome of a tadpole larva of Ciona intestinalis (L.) highlights sidedness in the brain of a chordate sibling. Elife. 2016 Dec 6;5:e16962. doi.org/10.7554/eLife.16962
Stolfi A, Gainous TB, Young JJ, Mori A, Levine M, Christiaen L. Early chordate origins of the vertebrate second heart field. Science. 2010 Jul 30;329(5991):565-8. doi.org/10.1126/science.1190181
Deuterostomia may not sound familiar, but it should: you are a deuterostome! Most deuterostomes belong to one of two groups that include most of its members—echinoderms, which includes animals such as the spiny-skinned starfish, sea urchins, and their relatives, and chordates, which include fish and other vertebrates (including humans). Learn more
Meet the Other Deuterostome Organisms
What is MBL March Madness?
Based on the March Madness NCAA basketball tournament, during MBL March Madness, popular MBL organisms face off for your votes. YOU have the opportunity to decide what organism is crowned victorious by voting for your favorite organisms in a series of head-to-head match-ups. Voting will take place on the MBL social media channels from March 29 – April 7.
Learn more and download a bracket at mbl.edu/march-madness