To overcome difficulties in getting research materials of cephalochordate lancelets, which has severely hampered experimental studies of this animal, we have attempted to establish a culture system in the laboratory. Adult animals collected from the wild were maintained in 2.5-L plastic containers filled with natural seawater without sand substratum. They were fed daily with unicellular algae. About 25% of the animals collected in 2003, 2004, and 2005 developed gonads in our culture system. Some of the sexually mature animals collected in the breeding seasons in 2005 and 2006 spawned spontaneously in the plastic containers of this system. Broods obtained in 2005 were maintained longer than a year in a glass tank without sand substratum. The progeny born in the laboratory showed great individual variation in growth but metamorphosed normally, and some of them started to develop gonads around 10 months after fertilization. Our mass culture methods for both adults and their progeny made daily observation possible and allowed the constant spawning of animals collected from the wild, at least in the summer season. Our culture method saves labor in maintenance and is easily set up without any specific demands except for running seawater, though still required to better survival rate and spawning control. Lancelet populations maintained in the laboratory can promote studies on these animals across disciplines and especially contribute to elucidation of the evolutionary history of chordates.
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