Streamlined sampling and cultivation of the pelagic cosmopolitan larvacean, Oikopleura dioica.

Oikopleura dioica is a planktonic chordate with exceptional filter-feeding ability, rapid generation time, conserved early development, and a compact genome. For these reasons, it is considered a useful model organism for marine ecological studies, evolutionary developmental biology, and genomics. As research often requires a steady supply of animal resources, it is useful to establish a reliable, low-maintenance culture system. Here we describe a step-by-step method for establishing an O. dioica culture. We describe how to select potential sampling sites, collection methods, target animal identification, and the set-up of the culturing system. We provide troubleshooting advice based on our own experiences. We also highlight critical factors that help sustain a robust culture system. Although the culture protocol provided here is optimized for O. dioica, we hope our sampling technique and culture setup will inspire new ideas for maintaining other fragile pelagic invertebrates.