Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Thaliacea

Order: Salpida

Family: Salpidae

Genus: Salpa

Species: S. maxima


These marine organism are commonly called tunicates as their body is covered by a membrane called tunic. It is a pelagic organism live at depths ranges from 0 – 182 m down. The larve possess a notochord and  in adults the notochord is extremely reduced and present only in the form of dorsal ganglion. Their body is mostly transparent and have more than 2000 gill slits on it.


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 1 and 10 cm (0.39 and 3.94 in) tall. The solitary life history phase, also known as an oozooid, 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, and then 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 enough food is no longer available to sustain the enormous population of salps. Occasionally, mushroom corals and those of the genera Heteropsammia are known to feed on salps during blooms

Habitat and Distribution

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), where they sometimes form enormous swarms, often in deep water, and are sometimes even more abundant than krill.