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Students of holothuroid systematics from around the world will converge this summer on the University of Guam's Marine Laboratory to study the latest in integrative taxonomy. The workshop will take advantage of the combined expertise of mentors from the Aspidochirote Working Group, the online literature resources developed as part of this PEET project, an easily accessable and diverse Indo-Pacific coral-reef holothuroid fauna, as well as the well-equipped laboratories at the Marine Laboratory. Participants hail from Australia, Belgium, Colombia, France, Guam, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Philippines, Saipan and the continental U.S.
Congratulations to Sun Kim, M.Sc., University of Guam, for successfully defending his thesis entitled “Molecular systematics of tropical sea cucumbers Bohadschia (Holothuriidae)”. Magister Kim used molecular phylogenetic methods to sort out the species identities and evolution of one of the most perplexing genera of aspidochirote holothuroids, the Bohadschia.
12 December 2009
AWG 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. The book features colour plates of all species, often in situ, found in the region. The book is published by the Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. To learn more, order a copy or examine the cover information, see their website of recent publications at ICMYL.
AWG member Sun Kim collected holothuroids and other invertebrates on Yap, Federated States of Micronesia as a follow up to a previous trip by AWG members. Sun concentrated on habitats not fully examined before, bringing back important exemplars of uncommon and undescribed species known from the island. His trip was funded by PEET and an American Museum of Natural History Lerner Gray Grant for Marine Research.
Spurred by an urgent request to return specimens borrowed some years ago, AWG members Drs Cl. Massin & Y. Samyn of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels and Dr D. Van Den Spiegel of the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren decided to carry out a quick visit to the nearby Zoological Museum of the University of Amsterdam. Such a visit was on their agenda given that this museum is home to several important collections, most notably the collection made during the famous scientific expedition of the Siboga (1899-1900). Just as with the previous museum visits, funding is well covered by PEET, Synthesys, the Belgian GTI National Focal Point and the Invertebrates Department of the Royal. This excerpt about their trip and more can be found at the blog Echinodermata. Photo courtesy http://www.science.uva.nl/
Congratulations to AWG intern Chad Riopel, M.Sc., University of Guelph, Canada, for successfully defending his thesis entitled “Evolutionary Trade-offs between Anti-predator Mechanisms Among Coral-Reef Sea Cucumbers”. Magister Riopel's research interests include the evolution of predator-prey ecology, especially in tropical marine systems. He received training in methods of phylogenetic systematics and comparative evolution in Alex Kerr's lab.
AWG members Drs Claude Massin, Yves Samyn (both Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences) and Dr Didier Vandenspiegel (Royal Museum for Central Africa) recently visited the ZMUG, Germany. An excerpt of their report reads, "The collections there are of particular importance because it houses many types erected by Dr Emil Selenka, whose monograph entitled Beiträge zur Anatomie und Systematik der Holothurien has remained of key importance ever since it was published in 1867. However, to our knowledge Selenka’s ZMUG collection has since its conception not been critically re-examined, apart from an isolated study by Panning (1944). Moreover, Selenka’s ZMUG collection was for a long time considered lost to science, but several years ago our host – Dr Mike Reich – communicated to one of us (YS) that the collection was still available and well preserved but that unfortunatly a large part of the labels were partly destroyed due to bad preservation conditions." Photos of the trip and more can be found at the blog Echinodermata.
AWG members Drs Claude Massin, Yves Samyn (both Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences) and Dr Didier Vandenspiegel (Royal Museum for Central Africa) have created a new web resource for scientists and laypersons interested in holothuroids called Echinodermata. The site includes an interesting blog on the Belgian members activities and provides photographs of type material collected from European museums, as well as other essential information.
AWG student Tim Werner, Boston University, will visit Guam to perform fieldwork for his PhD dissertation on the population structure of the common, Indo-Pacific holothuroid Holothuria atra.
Go-Eun "Gon" Kim, PhD candidate, under the primary advisement of Choong-Gon Kim, University of Science and Technology at Jaejeon and the Korean Ocean Research and Development Institute, will visit Alex Kerr's lab at the Marine Laboratory, University of Guam, to study the systematics of echinoderms. Gon's primary interest is in the comparative anatomy of echinoids.
AWG member Sun Kim will collect holothuroids and other invertebrates on Wake Island as part of an expedition by the NOAA research vessel Hi'ialakai. Wake's isolation and lack of comprehensive collecting efforts there, make the island of keen interest to AWG, particularly given the recent unexpected high endemicity of holothuroids and other echinoderms from other isolated northern Pacific islands.
AWG members Francois Michonneau and Gustav Paulay presents work at the 2009 Marine Symposium held at the University of Florida. In addition two undergraduate research assistants in Gustav's lab also presented work on holothuroids, Laura Kenyon and J.D. Paulsen, both of whom received prizes for, respectively, Honourable Mention for Undergraduate Oral Presentation and Best Undergraduate Oral Presentation. Congratulations Laura and J.D.!
Chad Riopel, Masters candidate, University of Guelph, Canada, will visit Alex Kerr's lab at the Marine Laboratory, University of Guam to study the evolution and ecology of tropical holothuroids. Chad's thesis combines field experiments, phylogenetics and chemical ecology to understand the evolution of ecological interactions between holothuroids and their predators.
AWG member Dr. Claude Massin has retired as Curator of Malacology, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences. Claude's impeccable scholarship has immeasurably enriched our field with a large body of authoritative work. We wish him well in his new adventures and take comfort that his considerable passion for our science may yet grant us his continued professional presence. A powerpoint presentation (44.5 Mb) of his contributions and his colleagues' accolades given at his retirement is available upon request.
Following his presentation at the echinoderm conference at the University of Tasmania (see below), peripatetic AWG member Francois Michonneau will collect holothuroids in Australia along the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) and Ningaloo Reef and on the reefs of New Caledonia. In addition Fraoncois will visit important holothuroid collections in Museum Victoria, Melbourne, and Australian Museum, Sydney. At left are the Ribbon Reefs, northern GBR.
AWG members Alexandra Martinez-Melo, Francois Michonneau and Gustav Paulay present work at the 13th International Echinoderm Conference held at the University of Tasmania, Australia from 5 to 9 January. Francois discussed his dissertation work on the systematics and evolution of the Holothuria (Thymiosycia) impatiens complex, as well as presented a poster. Francois will remain in Australia to collect holothuroids along the Great Barrier Reef and adjacent environs.
Congratulations to AWG intern Karim Mezali, Ph.D., Université de Mostaganem, Algeria, for successfully defending his thesis entitled “Phylogeny, systematics, population dynamics and nutrition of aspidochirote holothuroids (Echinodermata) in an Algerian Posidonia oceanica meadow”. Dr. Mezali's research interests include the systematics and ecology of Mediterranean aspidochirotes; he received training in phylogenetic systematics and taxonomy in Gustav Paulay's lab.
It is with a heavy heart that we must relate the passing of AWG member Cynthia Ahearn, Museum Specialist, Department of Invertebrate Zoology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. Most recently, she was presented the Natural History Museum’s Public Outreach Award, while in 2007, a newly discovered, large and beautiful seastar from the Caribbean was formally named in her honor. We will miss her very much. A tribute to her and a summary of her contributions to our field are found at Cindy.
AWG members Sun Kim, Francois Michonneau, Gustav Paulay, Dave Pawson, John Starmer, Tim Werner and Alex Kerr presented work on aspidochirote systematics at the 11th NAEC at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Florida. AWG presented five posters and six oral presentations, summarising work on the PEET project to date, including the most comprehensive phylogeny of the class and an overview of AWG's more general goal of performing large-scale integrative taxonomy.
AWG members Magali Honey, Sun Kim, Francois Michonneau, Gustav Paulay, John Starmer, Tim Werner and Alex Kerr, as well as two undergraduate members of Fransico Solis-Marin's lab, Alexa and Julio, met at the Florida Museum of Natural History to examine the growing holothuroid collection and learn holothuroid systematics.
AWG members Sun Kim, Francois Michonneau, Gustav Paulay, John Starmer, Tim Werner and Alex Kerr will present work on aspidochirote systematics at the 11th ICRS in Ft. Lauderdale Florida. They will present over a dozen talks and posters on topics such as the cryptic diversity in the genera Actinopyga and Bohadschia, the evolution of ecological diversity in coral-reef holothuroids, as well as an overview of the Aspidochirote Working Group, its objectives and progress to date. Gustav Paulay and Alex Kerr will also chair a session on reef biodiversity and phylogenetics.
AWG members Francois Michonneau, Gustav Paulay and Tim Werner are collecting echinoderms and other invertebrates around Nosy Be, an island off the northwest coast of Madagascar. They are with a team of marine scientists who are engaged in an underwater assessment of coastal marine life in this part of the world. The project (BIOTAS) has the goal of characterizing the region's biodiversity (land and sea), and examining the natural processes that have led to the geographic distribution patterns among multiple groups of organisms inthe southwest Indian Ocean. For updates, see Tim Werner's blog of the expedition hosted by the New England Aquarium: Tim's blog.
AWG members Sun Kim and Francois Michonneau are collecting holothuroids and other echinoderms around Majuro Atoll. They will focus on obtaining representatives of the genus Bohadschia, particularly those from the B. "marmorata" complex and a recently discovered - and likely undescribed - large olive form. The photo of Majuro at left is from www.doi.gov
AWG members Sun Kim, Francois Michonneau and Alex Kerr have been collecting holothuroids and other echinoderms around Guam. Guam's reefs are among the most intensively surveyed in the world, in large part because of the collecting efforts of the faculty at the University of Guam Marine Laboratory, established in 1970. Despite the long-term collecting efforts, Guam is still chock-a-block with surprises. It is still routine to find new records of even large species. A second specimen of Holothuria (Lessonothuria) hawaiiensis, a species previously known only from Hawaii has been collected. A polka-dot, undescribed species of Bohadschia, previously known from Indonesia, Philippines and Palau, has also been found. Guam's holothuroid fauna now stands at over 50 species.
AWG members Sun Kim, Francois Michonneau, and Alex Kerr helped survey the reefs around the island of Kosrae. Technical support was provided by the Kosrae State government, who - like Yap (see below) - have requested that AWG assist Resource Management Authority with a survey of holothuroids around the island, under threat of commercial harvesting of these animals by foreign interests for export as beche-de-mer. At least four new species were found by the team, including a 50-cm long, striped Holothuria (Thymiosycia) "impatiens".
After characterisation of the collection of the Paris, London, Berlin and Moscow museum, AWG members Drs Cl. Massin & Y. Samyn of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels and Dr D. Van Den Spiegel of the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren set out to the Zoologisches Museum zu Universität Hamburg (ZMH) to score some of the historical vouchers as described by Selenka (1867), Semper (1868), Ludwig (1875), Erwe (1913) and Panning (1944). Just as with the previous museum visits, funding is well covered by PEET, Synthesys, the Belgian GTI National Focal Point and the Invertebrates Department of the Royal.
A major goal of AWG is to make available electronically all species descriptions of our animals. To date, over 400 original species descriptions have been scanned, edited, rendered as pdf files; all are now available on our new webpage here. We have also begun scanning the mostly older taxonomic literature dealing with holothuroids, with the aim of providing an online library of same.
AWG member Dr. Phil Lambert has retired as Curator of Invertebrates at the Royal British Columbia Museum. Phil has contributed greatly to our knowledge of the temperate North Pacific echinoderm fauna. Fortunately for us, he remains attached as a Research Associate of the Museum, granting solid hope that he will continue to share with us his love of echinoderms through his careful scholarship and research.
The AWG welcomes aboard new graduate student Sun Wook Kim, B.Sc. cum laude, Seattle University. His research interests include the biology of nemerteans and echinoderms. Sun will pursue a M.Sc. in Biology under the advisement of AWG member Alex Kerr, University of Guam Marine Laboratory. The tentative subject of Sun's Masters thesis will be the taxonomy and phylogenetics of Bohadschia.
AWG members Kris Netchy, John Starmer and Alex Kerr helped survey the reefs around the main island of Yap and the outer islands of Ngulu and Ulithi atolls. Technical support on Yap was provided by the Yap State government, who have requested that AWG assist their Marine Resources Division with a survey of holothuroids around the main island, now experiencing harvesting of these animals by foreign interests for export as beche-de-mer. Management recommendations were provided to the division and a field guide to the echinoderms is being prepared. At least four new species were found by the team, including a tiger-striped Actinopyga. Surveys in the outer islands also found several unusual species and was supported by the Yap Community Action Plan and the Nature Conservancy aboard the converted trawler Micronesian Dream.
AWG members François Michonneau and Gustav Paulay surveyed invertebrates of Réunion Island in the Mascarene Archipelago, as part of the multi-national BIOTAS project. The objectives of BIOTAS, funded by the Agence Nationale de la Recherche of France and headquartered at the Université de la Réunion, are to compare patterns of connectivity and speciation in marine and terrestrial organisms in the SW Indian Ocean, and test hypotheses about the origin of these patterns. The survey yielded numerous new records of holothurians for the area, as well as topo-typical samples of several species that should help ascertain the correct identity of some controversial holothurian taxa. Réunion neighbors Mauritius, the type locality of several holothurian species described in the first part of the 19th century. The next planned survey of BIOTAS is in Madagascar next year.
AWG member Scott Smiley has compiled the most extensive bibliography of holothuroids, comprised of over 4,500 references extending to Linneaus. This is part of the PEET effort to compile all species descriptions, diagnoses, new combinations, synonomies and other nomenclatural acts of our group. The bibliography also includes papers on phylogenetics, palaeontology, anatomy, chemistry, physiology, reproduction, commercial exploitation and other areas of study. The list is divided into two sections; one on taxonomy, systematics and palaeontology and a second on other aspects of biology. Both lists will be made available on this site. To the left is pictured Ludwig (1889-1892), the last effort to compile a comprehensive list of important holothuroid references.
AWG members Drs Cl. Massin, D. Vanden Spiegel and Y. Samyn visited the Zoological Museum of the Moscow State University, as recent communications with colleagues Smirnov and Martinov have revealed that the Moscow museum houses some of the previously thought-lost types of Semper (1868). Just as with the previous museum visits, funding is well covered by PEET, Synthesys, the Belgian GTI National Focal Point and the Invertebrates Department of the Royal. Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences
AWG member John Starmer collected echinoderms and other invertebrates during surveys of benthic invertebrates in the remote islands of the northern Mariana Archipelago while aboard the NOAA research vessel Hi'ialakai. The 68-m ship supports biologists and physical oceanographers who perform biennial rapid ecological assessments of coral reefs in American-held territories across the Pacific, including all the islands and reefs in the Mariana Archipelago.
After their fruitful visits to the Paris and British Museums last year, AWG members Drs Cl. Massin, D. Vanden Spiegel and Y. Samyn continue their effort to document the remaining type material of the species described in the Holothuriidae and the Stichopodidae. They set out to tackle the collections of the 'Museum für Naturkunde an der Universität Humboldt’ in Berlin where some of the historical types of Jäger (1833), Semper (1868), Lampert (1889) are deposited.
The AWG welcomes aboard grad-student intern Magali Honey, a Ph.D. candidate in Zoology under the advisement of AWG member Francisco Solis-Marin, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Her research interests include the taxonomy and phylogenetics of Holothuria (Selenkothuria), the subject of her doctoral dissertation. Magali received training in phylogenetic systematics and taxonomy in Gustav Paulay's lab, Florida Museum of Natural History.
AWG members François Michonneau, Gustav Paulay and Alex Kerr presented an overview of the progress on our project at the NSF-sponsored meeting "PEET IV: Reaching Out" at the University of Georgia. The centerpiece was a provisional phylogeny of about half of the 350 or so described species of the order Aspidochirotida and outlined the interesting questions it raises, the species complexes it identifies, and clades to be targeted for revisions.
4 - 8 December 2006
AWG members Claude Massin, Mark O'Loughlin, Gustav Paulay, David Pawson, Frank Rowe, Yves Samyn, Scott Smiley, Fransisco Solis-Marin, Ahmed Thandar, Didier Van den Spiegel and Alex Kerr met at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Science, Brussels, from 4-8 December 2006 to discuss among other things: 1) tracking down all aspidochirotid nomina and literature, 2) tracking down aspidochirotid type material across the world and 3) developing a standardized, morphological character matrix.
4 December 2006
AWG members Yves Samyn, Didier Van den Spiegel and Claude Massin publish a new book "Taxonomie des holothuries des Comores" on the holothuroids of the Comoros Archipelago, western Indian Ocean. Features colour plates of all species found in the region. Click on the photo at left to see a larger version of the cover. This publication is the inaugural volume of AbcTaxa, a new series "dedicated to capacity building in taxonomy and collection management." To learn more, or to order a copy, see their website at AbcTaxa.
The AWG welcomes aboard graduate student intern Karim Mezali. Karim is a Ph.D. candidate in Zoology at the Université de Mostaganem, Algeria. His research interests include the systematics and ecology of Mediterranean aspidochirotes, the topic of his masters thesis. Over the next year, Karim will receive training in phylogenetic systematics and taxonomy in Gustav Paulay's lab.
AWG members Gustav Paulay and John Starmer join other scientists and crew aboard the NOAA research vessel Oscar Elton Sette to survey the marine biodiversity of the northwestern Hawaiian chain. To our surprise, several new large species of aspidochirote holothuroids have been discovered in the main Hawaiian islands of late (see photos on John Hoover's site) and the northwestern atolls hold promise for several more. The picture of the Shoals from space at left, courtesy NASA.
The AWG welcomes aboard new graduate student François Michonneau, M.Sc., Pierre & Marie Curie University, Paris. His research interests include the "creation and maintenance of marine invertebrate biodiversity (systematics, speciation, biogeography and community ecology)." François will pursue a Ph.D. in Zoology under the advisement of AWG member Gustav Paulay, Florida Museum of Natural History; the likely subject of his doctoral dissertation will be the taxonomy and phylogenetics of Holothuria (Lessonothuria).
The AWG welcomes aboard new graduate student Kris Netchy, from the University of Florida. Her research interests include the systematics of coral-reef holothuroids. Kris will pursue a M.Sc. in Biology under the advisement of AWG member Alex Kerr, University of Guam Marine Laboratory; the likely subject of her Masters thesis will be the taxonomy and phylogenetics of Actinopyga.
AWG members Cindy Ahearn, Alex Kerr, Phil Lambert, Francisco Solis-Marin, Dave Pawson, Ahmed Thandar and Tim Werner attend the 12th International Echinoderm Conference, held on the campus of the University of New Hampshire, USA, in the picturesque town of Durham. Abstracts of holothuroid research from the meeting are due to appear in the upcoming edition of the Bech-de-Mer Bulletin.
AWG member Gustav Paulay collects holothuroids on the reefs of Moorea, Tahiti as part of the Moorea Biocode Project and Census of Marine Life. See the photo of our hero and article on the project in the journal Nature.
AWG members Kris Netchy and Alex Kerr head out to the Central Philippines to Semper's type localities. Carl Semper in the 1860's described numerous species of holothuroids from the islands of Cebu and Bohol; many of these types have been lost or are in poor condition. They resurveyed the area and collected echinoderms in an effort to clarify the validity of his species. Several new species were discovered, as well as some not seen since their original descriptions over a century ago, including the large and colourful Stichopus variegatus Semper, 1868. At left, sunset in Bohol over the bow of a bangca.
AWG members Claude Massin, Yves Samyn and Didier Van den Spiegel examine the primary types deposited in the Musée national d’Histoire naturelle, Paris and the Natural History Museum, London. Claude, Yves and Didier also gave a joint presentation entitled "Systematical revision of the aspidochirotid families Holothuriidae & Stichopodidae" in the Department of Zoology at the museum. Their talk provided an overview of AWG efforts to revise the Aspidochiridotida, including a comprehensive inventory aspidochirote type specimens. The picture of the main entrance to the museum at left is courtesy of www.aviewoncities.com
AWG members Claude Massin, Yves Samyn and Didier Van den Spiegel examine the primary types deposited in the Musée national d’Histoire naturelle, Paris and the Natural History Museum, London. Among the notable discoveries, were several important Semper types, long believed lost.
The website for disseminating products from the Holothuroid PEET grant goes live. The site will gather under one roof and make available the holothuroid literature and, eventually, a fully searchable database of all species in Aspidochirotida, their diagnoses, nomenclatural history, type locations and images.
Gustav Paulay and Alex Kerr were awarded a PEET program grant from NSF to study the systematics and phylogenetics of coral-reef sea cucumbers and train students in holothuroid systematics. The funding will be used in part to support up to three graduate students and several undergraduate research assistants to work on the project.