A recently-published paper in a special edition of the Aquatic Invasions journal has recorded the first occurrence of yet another marine alien (Non-Indigenous Species – NIS) species from Maltese waters – Symplegma brakenhielmi.
This is a colonial ascidian/tunicate species which was first recorded in the Mediterranean in 1951 through a record from Israel and which is commonly found in most tropical and sub-tropical seas around the world.
The species immediately catches the eye of the underwater observer for the vibrant colours it presents, ranging from red, rose, orange, yellow, brown, cream, white to greenish-grey.
The colonies recorded in Malta presented the yellow colour morph only, unlike other colonies reported in the same paper (e.g. pink in Tunisia and brown in Turkey), and were observed along a pier in Birzebbuga, in close proximity to the Freeport facilities.
Prof. Alan Deidun, a resident academic within the Department of Geosciences at the Faculty of Science, personally observed and photographed the species, and is a co-author on the paper in question. He coordinates the ongoing Spot the Alien and Spot the Alien Fish citizen science campaigns, through which a substantial number of new marine records for Maltese waters have been unearthed.