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Predatory tunicate

Predatory tunicate

Not on Exhibit

Animal Facts

  • Scientific Name

    Megalodicopia hians

  • Animal Type


  • Diet

    zooplankton; tiny animals

  • Size

    to 5 inches (13 cm) across

  • Relatives

    other tunicates; distant relative of all animals with notochords, including human beings!

  • Habitat

    Deep Sea

  • Range

    Monterey Canyon at depths of 600-3,300 feet (183-1,000 m)

Natural History

Predatory tunicates live anchored along the deep sea canyon walls and seafloor, waiting for tiny animals to drift or swim into their cavernous hoods.

If you've ever seen a Venus flytrap capture an insect, you have a clue as to how a predatory tunicate eats. Its mouthlike hood is quick to close when a small animal drifts inside. Once the tunicate catches a meal, it keeps its trap shut until it's ready to eat again.


Anything that finds its way into the ocean, whether it's tossed away as trash, washes off a beach or falls off a boat, may eventually make its way to the deep sea. It's important to realize that the deep sea is not so far away that it's beyond the reach of human activities. Living creatures in the deep are affected by what we do at the surface.

Cool Facts

Predatory tunicates are simultaneous hermaphrodites—each animal produces both eggs and sperm. If conditions are poor or there are no other tunicates nearby, each tunicate can reproduce by itself.

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