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The Aspidochirote Working Group (AWG) is a team of systematists from around the world who are revising the taxonomy of aspidochirote sea cucumbers. This work is amply funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) under the program Partnerships for Enhancing Expertise in Taxonomy (PEET). This program aims to "support competitively reviewed research projects that target groups of poorly known organisms. This effort is designed to encourage the training of new generations of taxonomists and to translate current expertise into electronic databases and other formats with broad accessibility to the scientific community." Complimentary funding to European Union members of AWG has been provided through Synthesys and the Global Taxonomy Initiative.

The diversity of our taxonomic group, the Order Aspidochirotida (Holothuroidea: Echinodermata), is highest on tropical coral reefs. There, numerous “species” are, in fact, poorly defined complexes. As a result, species diversity is grossly underestimated. Reef field guides invariably picture large, common holothuroids that do not match any known species. Reef biodiversity surveys routinely turn up undescribed species everywhere. We estimate that less than half of the reef-associated species are yet described or properly designated. Tropical aspidochirote holothuroids are, for their size, among the most poorly known marine invertebrates. The objective of this PEET project is to greatly improve our understanding of aspidochirotid systematics through large-scale, cooperative efforts towards phylogenetics, monographic revisions, and training.


Latest News

Francisco et al.'s new bookAWG member Francisco Solis-Marin is senior author of a new book "Holoturoideos (Echinodermata: Holothuroidea) del Golfo de California" on the holothuroids of the well-known, largely subtropical gulf in the eastern Pacific Ocean.... Read more...

Zoologisches Museum, HamburgAWG members Drs Cl. Massin, Y. Samyn and Dr D. Van Den Spiegel visit the Zoological Museum of the University of Amsterdam, home of types from the famous Siboga expedition... Read more...

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