Comparative genetic analysis of Oikopleura dioca among local sub-populations.
Oikopleura dioica is a globally prolific tunicate that harbors a small genome of <70MB. This surprisingly scant amount of DNA codes for a relatively complex organism (the body plan during its entire life cycle has features of a notochord and tail). Preliminary whole genome sequencing and analysis of the local populations that live in the seas surrounding Okinawa has shown some notable differences among them. Morphologically, they appear to be the same species but further investigation is ongoing to determine the exact differences in the structure of their genomes and the evolutionary events that gave rise to the divergence. In time, the goal is to determine the mechanism that drives the local genetic diversity and potentially use this in a broader context for geographically-driven global speciation.