Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce

Website Search Box

Advanced Search

Maritigrella crozierae
Maritigrella crozierae: two adults copulating. Photo courtesy of: Newman & Flowers, Smithsonian Institution (NMNH).

Species Name: Maritigrella crozierae
Common Name: Tiger Flatworm
Synonymy: None
  1. TAXONOMY

    Kingdom Phylum/Division Class: Order: Family: Genus:
    Animalia Platyhelminthes Turbellaria Polycladida Eurylephidae Maritigrella

    Species Description

    M. crozierae is a large flatworm of the family Eurylephidae. Characteristic of this family is the presence of 2 tentacles on the head that are formed from folds in the anterior portion of the body. Two clusters of multiple eyespots in the brain of this animal are visible directly behind the tentacles. The body is heavily pigmented with the characteristic "tiger" pattern.

    Synonymy

    This species has sometimes been identified as Pseudoceros crozieri.

  2. HABITAT AND DISTRIBUTION

    Regional Occurrence

    M. crozierae is a tropical species that ranges from South Carolina to Florida, throughout the Caribbean and Bermuda.

    IRL Distribution

    M. crozierae is common throughout the IRL, and can be especially abundant where its primary prey species, Ectinascidia turbinata occurs.

  3. LIFE HISTORY AND POPULATION BIOLOGY

    Age, Size, Lifespan

    Size ranges from 5 - 40 mm, with an average size of approximately 20 mm (0.8 inches).

    Abundance

    Maritigrella crozierae is highly abundant and is the most common flatworm from southeast Florida to the Caribbean. Two individuals may occur per colony of Ecteinascidia turbinata, the colonial ascidean (sea squirt) which is the sole food source of Maritigrella crozierae.

    Locomotion

    Crawls

    Reproduction

    Maritigrella crozierae is a simultaneous hermaphrodite which uses hypodermic insemination to outcross with other individuals.

    Embryology

    Larval form of Maritigrella crozierae is the Muller's larva.

  4. PHYSICAL TOLERANCES

    No information is available at this time

  5. COMMUNITY ECOLOGY

    Trophic Mode

    M. crozierae feeds exclusively on the ascidian Ectinascidia turbinata, a colonial, orange-colored tunicate. This tunicate species produces a class of chemicals called secondary metabolites which have been shown to be effective anti-tumor agents. M. crozierae sequesters these chemically active compounds into its own tissues as it feeds on E. turbinata.  Thus, M. crozierae could prove to be of interest to chemists and the pharmaceutical industry.

    Associated Species

    M. crozierae occurs with its primary prey species, Ectinascidia turbinata

  6. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

    Broad-scale Cost/Benefit

    Because of its ability to sequester chemically active compounds from Ecteinascidia turbinata, an ascidian from which antitumor compounds have been isolated, Maritigrella crozierae can be considered to have potentially far reaching economic impact to the pharmaceutical industry.

  7. REFERENCES

    Johnson KB, Forward RB. 2003. Larval photoresponses of the polyclad flatworm Maritigrella crozieri (Platyhelminthes, Polycladida) (Hyman). J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 282: 103-112.

    Newman LJ, Norenburg JL, Reed S. 2000. Taxonomic and biological observations on the tiger flatworm, Maritigrella crozieri (Hyman, 1939), new combination (Platyhelminthes, Polycladida, Euryleptidae) from Florida waters. J Nat Hist 34: 799-808.

    Rawlinson KA. 2010. Embryonic and post-embryonic development of the polyclad flatworm Maritigrella crozieri; implications for the evolution of spiralian life history traits. Frontier Zool 7: 1-25.

Report by: J. Dineen, Smithsonian Marine Station with thanks to L. Newman
Submit additional information, photos or comments to:
irl_webmaster@si.edu
Page last updated: July 25, 2001

[ TOP ]