Culture optimization for the emergent zooplanktonic model organism Oikopleura dioica

J Plankton Res. 2009 Apr;31(4):359-370. doi: 10.1093/plankt/fbn132. Epub 2009 Jan 16.


The pan-global marine appendicularian, Oikopleura dioica, shows considerable promise as a candidate model organism for cross-disciplinary research ranging from chordate genetics and evolution to molecular ecology research. This urochordate, has a simplified anatomical organization, remains transparent throughout an exceptionally short life cycle of less than 1 week and exhibits high fecundity. At 70 Mb, the compact, sequenced genome ranks among the smallest known metazoan genomes, with both gene regulatory and intronic regions highly reduced in size. The organism occupies an important trophic role in marine ecosystems and is a significant contributor to global vertical carbon flux. Among the short list of bona fide biological model organisms, all share the property that they are amenable to long-term maintenance in laboratory cultures. Here, we tested diet regimes, spawn densities and dilutions and seawater treatment, leading to optimization of a detailed culture protocol that permits sustainable long-term maintenance of O. dioica, allowing continuous, uninterrupted production of source material for experimentation. The culture protocol can be quickly adapted in both coastal and inland laboratories and should promote rapid development of the many original research perspectives the animal offers.