This March 23 oral presentation by the professor of biology and environmental studies communicated the results of a five-year study examining the role of fish predators in preventing the establishment and spread of the invasive light bulb tunicate on submerged hard surfaces at the Duke University Marine Laboratory in Beaufort, N.C.
Mike Kingston, professor of biology and environmental studies, recently presented his invasive species research at the 117th annual meeting of the North Carolina Academy of Science.
The presentation focused on the results of a five-year study examining the role of fish predators in preventing the establishment and spread of the invasive light bulb tunicate on submerged hard surfaces at the Duke University Marine Laboratory in Beaufort, N.C.
Kingston is a summer adjunct faculty member in the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. For the past 10 summers, he has taught a Marine Ecology summer course to undergraduate and graduate students at the Duke University Marine Laboratory (DUML) in Beaufort, North Carolina. The data presented in this oral presentation were collected by his Marine Ecology students.
The light bulb tunicate, Clavelina oblonga, was first observed in the Beaufort area in 2014. Published research sugggests that it was transported and accidentally introduced to the Beaufort area on a ship's hull. Ceramic settling plates were submersed below the DUML dock each July and assessed three weeks later in August during the summers of 2014 through 2018.
Although C. oblonga did not settle on any plates in summer 2014, the following four summers showed high levels of coverage by this invasive species on plates protected from fish predators with mesh cages. The invader was absent from plates that were not cages and therefore subject to fish predation.
When allowed to spread, this exotic species grows over and smothers other established species. The results of this five-year study indicate that native fish predators can reduce the invasiveness of exotic marine species and control their spread at the earliest stages of invasion.