Add sea squirts — a variety of small, tube-like marine creatures that live bunched together in colonies — to the list of species that seem to be thriving in the warming waters off the Maine coast.
Marine scientists say that the gelatinous animals have been growing in number in shallow waters along the coast and could be creating problems for native organisms that are getting squeezed out of their traditional habitat on the bottom.
Red Asian seaweed, mola mola, green crabs and black sea bass are among other unfamiliar marine species that have been showing up in greater numbers in the Gulf of Maine in recent years, either because the waters have been warming, they’ve been artificially introduced or both.
Sea squirts “are extremely prevalent,” said Larry Harris, a zoology professor at University of New Hampshire. “They are having a banner year this year. They are out there competing with the seaweeds and [other organisms] on the bottom.”
Harris, who has a study site at a pier at Estes head in Eastport, said one species especially, called didemnum vexillum, has proliferated in recent years. He said the species looks “like pancake batter,” and the creatures have enveloped some of the structures where he dives to collect data.
A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....
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