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Systematics is the formal study of the diversity of life. Coral reefs are among the most diverse ecosystems in the marine realm, yet we know embarassingly little about who lives there. In fact, on coral reefs it is not unusual to encounter a new and undescribed species daily; poorly understood species complexes and nonmonophyletic higher taxa abound. Even Guam, one of the most well-sampled islands in the Indo-Pacific with over 6000 species and counting, has many large and common invertebrates lacking a scientific name. Consequently, we at the Marine Lab are interested in phylogentic systematics and taxonomy of coral-reef organisms. Current work is concentrating on the fishes, corals, echinoderms and land snails. The picture in the upper right shows the possible evolution of speciation rates on a phylogeny of the coral family Acroporidae. Each model M(ij), has a unique jth coloring of i rate parameters on its branches. Using standing species diversities, the known phylogeny and divergence times, one can estimate whether a group, say the largest genus of corals Acropora, has an unusually high rate of speciation.
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