Almost alien-looking, Stalked Tunicates (sometimes known as Sea Squirts) are often mistaken for a plant rather than an invertebrate animal. Two distinct parts of the tunicate can be easily identified: a cylindrical body and a thin trunk that anchors it to the rocks in sub tidal areas all along the Oregon coast. At first glance, the animal may appear too fragile for an environment characterized by its strong currents and pounding surf, but it is this constant flow of water that allows the animal to thrive. Water is filtered through siphons at the end of the body and food is extracted. They are often referred to as “suspension feeders.” Tunicates have a leathery skin and can range in color from dark brown to bright orange. Sea squirts are the natural prey of flatworms, sea stars, crabs, birds, fish, and sea otters. They are also eaten by humans in many parts of the world, including Asia, Europe and South America.
Range & Habitat
Tunicates can be found along the West Coast of North America from British Columbia to Baja California. They prefer rocky shores or substrate where there are powerful currents or wave action.