name = Salpida

image_width = 250px
image_caption = This image is the lobate ctenophore "Leucothea pulchra" and should be moved to Ctenophora.
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
subphylum = Urochordata
classis = Thaliacea
ordo = Salpida
familia = Salpidae

A salp (plural salps; also salpa, plural salpae or salpas [cite web|url=|title=salp - Definitions from|accessdate=2008-09-28] ) is a barrel-shaped, free-floating tunicate. It moves by contracting, thus pumping water through its gelatinous body. The salp strains the pumped water through its internal feeding filters, feeding on phytoplankton that it sieves out of the water.


Salps are common in equatorial, temperate, and cold seas, where they can be seen at the surface, singly or in long, stringy colonies. The most abundant concentrations of salps are in the Southern Ocean (near Antarctica). Here they sometimes form enormous swarms, often in deep water, and are sometimes even more abundant than krill. [cite web|url=|title=Dive and Discover: Scientific Expedition 10: Antarctica|accessdate=2008-09-03] Over the last century, while krill populations in the Southern Ocean have declined, salp populations appear to be increasing.

Life History

Salps have a complex life cycle, with an obligatory alternation of generations. Both portions of the life cycle exist together in the seas - they look quite different, but both are mostly-transparent, tubular, gelatinous animals that are typically between one and ten cm tall. The solitary life history phase, also known as an oozoid, is a single barrel-shaped animal that reproduces asexually by producing a chain of tens to hundreds of individuals, which are released from the parent at a small size. The chain of salps is the aggregate portion of the life cycle. The aggregate individuals are also known as blastozooids; they remain attached together while swimming and feeding, and each individual grows in size. Each blastozooid in the chain reproduces sexually (the blastozooids are sequential hermaphrodites, first maturing as females, and are fertilized by male gametes produced by older chains), with a growing embryo oozoid attached to the body wall of the parent. The growing oozoids are eventually released from the parent blastozooids, then they continue to feed and grow as the solitary asexual phase, thus closing the life cycle of salps.

The alternation of generations allows for a fast generation time, with both solitary individuals and aggregate chains living and feeding together in the sea. When phytoplankton is abundant, this rapid reproduction leads to fairly short-lived blooms of salps, which eventually filter out most of the phytoplankton. The bloom ends when there is no longer enough food to sustain the enormous population of salps.

Oceanographic importance

One reason for the success of salps is how they respond to phytoplankton blooms. When there is plenty of food, salps can quickly bud off clones, which graze the phytoplankton and can grow at a rate which is probably faster than any other multicellular animal, quickly stripping the phytoplankton from the sea. But if the phytoplankton is too dense, the salps can clog and sink to the bottom. During these blooms, beaches can become slimy with mats of salp bodies, and other planktonic species can experience fluctuations in their numbers due to competition with the salps.

Sinking fecal pellets and bodies of salps carry carbon to the sea floor, and salps are abundant enough to have an impact on the ocean's biological pump. Consequently, large changes in their abundance or distribution may alter the ocean's carbon cycle, and potentially play a role in climate change.

Nervous systems and relationships to other animals

Salps are related to the pelagic tunicate groups doliolida and pyrosoma, as well as to other bottom-living (benthic) tunicates.

Although salps appear similar to jellyfish because of the simple form of their bodies and their free-floating way of life, they are structurally most closely related to vertebrates, animals with true backbones.

Salps appear to have a form preliminary to vertebrates, and are used as a starting point in models of how vertebrates evolved. Scientists speculate that the tiny groups of nerves in salps are one of the first instances of a primitive nervous system, which eventually evolved into the more complex central nervous systems of vertebrates.

Studies on salp brains have been done by Thurston Lacalli and Linda Holland and published in "Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London." [cite journal|last=Lacalli|first=T.C.|coauthors=Holland, L.Z.|date=1998|title=The developing dorsal ganglion of the salp "Thalia democratica", and the nature of the ancestral chordate brain|journal=Phil. Trans. Royal Society B. Biological Sciences|volume=353|pages=1943-1967]


*Order Salps Salpida
**Family Salpidae
*** Genus "Cyclosalpa"
**** "Cyclosalpa affinis"
**** "Cyclosalpa bakeri"
**** "Cyclosalpa foxtoni" Van Soest, 1974
**** "Cyclosalpa pinnata"
*** Genus "Iasis"
**** "Iasis zonaria"
*** Genus "Ihlea" Metcalf, 1919
**** "Ihlea racovitzai" (van Beneden, 1913)
*** Genus "Pegea" Savigny, 1816
**** "Pegea confederata" (Forskal, 1775)
*** Genus "Salpa" Forskål, 1775
**** "Salpa cylindrica"
**** "Salpa fusiformis"
**** "Salpa maxima"
**** "Salpa thompsoni" (Foxton, 1961)
**** "Salpa tilsicostata"
*** Genus "Thalia"
**** "Thalia democratica"
*** Genus "Thetys" Tilesius, 1802
**** "Thetys vagina" Tilesius, 1802


Bone, Q. editor (1998) The Biology of Pelagic Tunicates. Oxford University Press, Oxford. 340 pp.


External links

* [ Pelagic tunicates (including salps) overview]
* [ Scientific expedition to study salps near Antarctica - many details, with interviews, photos, videos, graphs]
* [ Sludge of slimy organisms coats beaches of New England Boston Globe October 9, 2006]
* [ The salps on]
* [ The role of salps in the study of origin of the vertebrate brain]
* [ Jellyfish-like Creatures May Play Major Role In Fate Of Carbon Dioxide In The Ocean] ,, July 2, 2006
* [ "Ocean 'Gummy Bears' Fight Global Warming"] ,, July 20, 2006
* [ How salps might help counteract global warming] BBC News, September 26, 2007
* [ Salp Fact Sheet]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • salp — [salp] n. pl. salp or salps 〚ModL < L, kind of stockfish < Gr salpē〛 any of an order (Salpida, class Thaliacea) of free swimming tunicates characterized by a barrel shaped body ringed with muscle and open at both ends: also called salpa [sal′pə]… …   Universalium

  • salp — [salp] n. pl. salp or salps [ModL < L, kind of stockfish < Gr salpē] any of an order (Salpida, class Thaliacea) of free swimming tunicates characterized by a barrel shaped body ringed with muscle and open at both ends: also called salpa… …   English World dictionary

  • Salp — (s[a^]lp), n. (Zo[ o]l.) Any species of {Salpa}, or of the family {Salpid[ae]}. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • SALP — See statutory adoption leave period. Practical Law Dictionary. Glossary of UK, US and international legal terms. 2010 …   Law dictionary

  • salp — [salp] noun a free swimming marine invertebrate related to the sea squirts, with a transparent barrel shaped body. [Many species in the class Thaliacea.] Origin C19: from Fr. salpe, based on Gk salpē fish …   English new terms dictionary

  • salp — also salpa noun Etymology: New Latin, from Latin, a kind of deep sea fish, from Greek salpē Date: 1835 any of various transparent barrel shaped or fusiform free swimming tunicates (class Thaliacea) abundant in warm seas …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • salp — Any of various free swimming tunicates of the genus Salpa, of warm seas, having a translucent, somewhat flattened, keglike body …   Fisheries — dictionary

  • salp — noun Any of a group of free swimming tunicates of the genus Salpa Syn: salpa …   Wiktionary

  • SALP — salpingectomy; salpingography; serum alkaline phosphatase …   Medical dictionary

  • Salp. — Salpeter EN saltpeter …   Abkürzungen und Akronyme in der deutschsprachigen Presse Gebrauchtwagen

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