Ascidiacea (commonly known as the ascidians or sea squirts) is a class in the Tunicata subphylum of sac-like marine invertebrate filter feeders. Ascidians are characterized by a tough outer "tunic" made of the polysaccharide tunicin, as compared to other tunicates which are less rigid.
Ascidians are found all over the world, usually in shallow water with salinities over 2.5%. While members of the Thaliacea and Larvacea swim freely like plankton, sea squirts are sessile animals: they remain firmly attached to substratum, such as rocks and shells.
There are 2,300 species of ascidians and three main types: solitary ascidians, social ascidians that form clumped communities by attaching at their bases, and compound ascidians that consist of many small individuals (each individual is called a zooid) forming colonies up to several meters in diameter.
Sea squirts feed by taking in water through the oral siphon. The water enters the mouth and pharynx, flows through mucus-covered gill slits (also called pharyngeal stigmata) into a water chamber called the atrium, then exits through the atrial siphon.