This week was an elephant. A big, heavy, brute of a week, full of data collection and field work and counting and counting and counting.
|Two species of ascidians on my fouling panels:|
Botryllus schlosseri (black and yellow), and Botrylloides
violaceus (red). Photographed with a dissecting microscope
at 6.5x magnification.
Some of you might remember the "mystery blobs" I started finding about a month ago. At the time, I was pretty sure the blobs were ascidians, but I couldn't identify them to species. Well, now I can confidently tell you that the blobs are ascidians, but they are not one species. There are four. Four species of ascidians. All. Over. My. Panels.
As you can imagine, the copious ascidians took a lot of time to count. It was a mammoth task, but I'm no stranger to long hours at the microscope. I actually removed the ascidians from a sub-set of my panels to see if the fouling community would develop any differently in their absence, and as you might imagine, that took a ton of time too. I kept reminding myself to take it in small bits, to take breaks and pace myself. This week was a beast - an elephant I had to eat in small bites.
Eel Pond is notorious for its diverse and abundant ascidians, so their dominance on the panels actually fits one of my hypotheses. I think their high numbers on the Eel Pond panels shows the influence of local retention and larval supply. It will be interesting to see how the fouling communities continue to develop this summer!