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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Larvacea (larvaceans, appendicularians)

[= Appendicularia]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Tunicata

Three families, 14 genera and 68 species worldwide, with all three families, 11 genera and 42 species that that have broad distributions that include southern African seas. There are no endemic species in the region.


Global figures are from World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS).

Family: Fritillariidae

Three genera and 30 species worldwide, with all genera and 21 species native to southern African seas, the high proportion of species being due to most of them having very broad pelagic distributions.


Family: Kowalevskiidae

One genus and two species, both of which have broad distributions that include southern African seas.


Family: Oikopleuridae

Ten genera and 36 species worldwide, with seven genera and 19 species that have broad pelagic distributions that include southern African seas.



  • Fenaux R., Bone Q, and Deibel D. 1998. Appendicularian distribution and zoogeography, p. 251-264. In Q. Bone [ed.], The biology of pelagic tunicates. Oxford University Press.
  • Lazarus, B. I. and D. Dowler. 1979. Pelagic tunicata off the west and south-west coasts of South Africa, 1964-1965. Fish. Bull. S. Afr. 12:93-119.
  • Van Zyl, R. P. 1960. A preliminary study of the salps and doliolids off the west and south coasts of South Africa. Investigational Rept. Div. Fisheries, Union of South Africa. v.40, 31p.

Text by Hamish Robertson