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Description:
Sea pork, Aplidium stellatum is a colonial tunicate that forms tough, globular colonies that measure an inch or more in height and are rubbery or cartilaginous to the touch.  Zooids are red and are arranged in circular groups under the tunic, which is creamy pink to purple in color.  Colonies can become large, spreading 12 inches or more.   

Habitat:
Sea pork is subtidal, found from the low tide line to depths of approximately 30 feet.  Colonies grow on hard substrates such as mangrove roots, rock jetties, pilings and floating docks. 

Similar Species:
Sea liver, Eudistoma hepaticum, is similar in overall appearance to sea pork, but the tunic is softer and feels slimy in comparison to the cartilaginous tunic of sea pork.  Under the microscope, zooids of the sea liver have only 3 rows of gill slits. 

Range:  
Sea pork ranges from Maine south through Florida and the gulf of Mexico.

 

 

 

Live specimen of sea pork, Aplidium stellatum, from a marina in the Indian River Lagoon.  Photo courtesy of K. Hill, Smithsonian Marine Station.
 
 

Sea pork got its name because after death, the rubbery tunic bleaches to white, resembling salt pork or fatback.