European lancelet

Branchiostoma lanceolatum

ORDER

Amphioxiformes

FAMILY

Branchiostomatidae

TAXONOMY

Branchiostoma lanceolatum Pallas, 1774, Cornwall, England. OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Amphioxus, lancelet; French: Amphioxus, lancelet; German: Amphioxus, Lanzettfischchen; Spanish: Anfioxo, pez lanceta, lanceta.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Sixty-one (59-65) myotomes: 36 (34-38) preatriopore, 14 (11-17) atriopore to anus, 11 (10-14) postanal. Two hundred twelve (183-288) dorsal fin chambers. Reaches up to 2.4 in (60 mm) in total length.

DISTRIBUTION

Most widespread species in the genus. Reported from the North Sea to the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Also found in the Suez Canal, off the East Africa coast, Oman, India, and Sri Lanka. Specimens from the Solomon Islands also may belong to this species.

HABITAT

Sandy bottoms from 3.28-196.85 ft (1-60 m) in depth. BEHAVIOR

Probably same as for family.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Semi-sessile filter feeders. Feed on plankton organisms, especially diatoms, but foraminiferans, radiolarians, and cladocerans were also found in content analyses of the gut.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Reproductive period starts in April in the Mediterranean, and in June/July in the North Sea. Spawning seems to occur in the evening; spermatozoa are shed before the eggs.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Several European marine biological stations supply this species to educational and research institutions. ♦

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