Bulletin of the Southern California Academy of Sciences
Volume 70, Page 114-124

Observations on the Distribution and Ecology
of the
Littoral Ascidians
of the
Mainland Coast of Southern California

Rimmon C. Fay and Jeffrey V. Johnson

ABSTRACT: A study of the littoral ascidians of the mainland of southern California was conducted during the summer of 1970. The collecting sites are recorded and natural history notes on the 41 species listed are presented. The number of species found in each of the four areas studies along the coast (Santa Barbara, Point Dume, Palos Verdes-Los Angeles Harbor, and San Diego) suggests that the contemporary distribution of tunicates may be controlled more by water quality than by availability of a physically suitable habitat.

The distribution, natural history, was first reported by Ritter and Forsyth (1917) and later reviewed and expanded by Van Name (1945). Both accounts were based on observations and collections made in the littoral zone and by dredging in the sub-littoral zone. A preliminary survey of this group of stenohaline organisms in southern California during 1970 resulted in some additions to the notes on the natural history of these organisms and a contemporary definition of their distribution.

Millar (1960) and others have advanced reasons .....

All collections from the intertidal zone to a maximum depth of 50 m were made south-east of Pt. Conception..............

The coast was arbitrarily divided into four collecting areas (Fig. 1-5), ranging from Santa Barbara southeast to San Diego. The species collected, ............

Unidentified Styelid species. The colonies may have a light sand covering if taken near the surf zone. Specimens were collected at a dept of 4 m from the exposed side of the Venice breakwater on 22 August 1970.

Botryllus sp. This genus is also common in the Marina del Rey, Venice, California.

The four delimited areas surveyed along the mainland coast of southern California yielded a total of 40 recognized species of ascidians. This compares favorably with the 29 species noted as occurring in the littoral zone in this region by Ritter and Forsyth (1917). .............

Water quality conditions along the coast line of the greater Los Angeles area have altered radically over the past 25 years. The reduction in abundance of certain species of benthic marine algae has been observed and the extirpation of Macrocystis pyrifera from the Palos Verdes Peninsula occurred during a period when the waste input into the waters bordering the peninsula increased rapidly; it is now on the order of 1.5 billion liters per day. About 2 billion liters of heated sea water discharged into King Harbor Marina per day from the Redondo Beach power plant of the Southern California Edison Company. Los Angeles Harbor receives 29.5 million liters of sewage per day (Crippen and Reish, 1969) in addition to industrial wastes (largely brines) and some thermal wastes (Reish, 1959).

Since qualitatively and quantitatively equivalent waste loadings are not introduced into the water masses about the region of Santa Barbara and San Diego, it may be that the comparatively reduced number of species of tunicates found in the Palos Verdes area and in the bays in the area of greater Los Angeles demonstrates the presence of biologically unfavorable water quality in this area. It appears that the changes in water quality along the southern shoreline of Los Angeles County which have occurred and which currently exist are detrimental and limiting to sensitive species of both algae and benthic invertebrates.

... Thanks are certainly due to Flare Drafting Service for the figures and to Mrs. J. M. Fay for typing the manuscript.

Abbott, D.P. 1953. Asexual reproduction in the colonial ascidian Metandrocarpa taylori, Huntsman. University of California Publicatons in Zoology 61:1-78.

Ritter, W. and R. Forsyth. 1917. Ascidians of the littoral zone of southern California. University of California Publications in Zoology 16: 439-512.

Van Name, W. 1945. North and South American Ascidians. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 84: 1-476.

[Fourteen more references were cited by Rim Fay and they will listed here in the near future by Robert van de Hoek]

Closing Remarks
Robert 'Roy' J. van de Hoek
Marine Biologist, Vertebrate Field Zoologist, Botanist, Ecologist Archaeologist, Naturalist, and Geographer
Malibu, California

As a student at UCLA, Rimmon Fay distinguished himself in earning a PhD. He also discovered in Malibu that barnacles can attach to sea urchins. This was done as a scuba diver and then reported to a professional biologist named Boolotian. Rim Fay was acknowledged in that scientific article. Rim Fay has distinguished himself by being the first scientist, namely a marine biologist, to serve on the California Coastal Commission. He has been used as reference in making the John Steinbeck film called Cannery Row, which starred Nick Nolte. And now he shares his wisdom and experiences with new enviromental activists and scientists, who will listen, because he is a very eclectic individual and it requires patience to hear his message to all of us. He blew the whistle loud and clear on the deteriorating marine environment of southern California more than 30 years ago, in 1972. He was recognized in 2001 by the California Coastal Conservancy annual meeting at Dana Point. Don May and Ellen Stern Harris made glowing remarks about this incredible marine biologist, who is not afraid to speak his mind.