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Any tunicate in the class Ascidiacea; found in seas worldwide. Resembling potatoes more than animals, they are permanently fixed to a surface. A forceful contraction of the adult's vaselike body shoots a jet of seawater when it is disturbed. They filter-feed near the shore on debris from dead plants and animals and, in deeper water, on plankton. Adults, from less than 1 in. to 1 ft (2–30 cm) long, have functional male and female reproductive organs. The free-swimming, tadpolelike larvae hatch from eggs shed by one individual and fertilized by another. Some species live individually, others in colonies.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on sea squirt, visit Britannica.com.