Phylogenetics and Phylogeography

Phylogeography explores the geographic distribution of genetic variation within a species, and phylogeny attempts to reconstruct the actual topology of the evolutionary process. Using comparative DNA sequence analysis we can reconstruct the shape of the branching pattern of the Tree of Life which allows us to understand the interrelatedness of all life and our place among it. CBR's Seahorse Research and Conservation Program is working on phylogenetic analyses involving Syngnathiform Fishes, the Giant Pacific Seahorse and is describing its work through an interactive website, Seahorse Sleuth. CBR is also conducting molecular research on shallow water octopuses and Whales and Dolphins.

Mulitgene Phylogeny of Syngnathiform Fishes

Conservation Genetic 2007 Poster

          Syngnathidae is a unique and poorly understood fish family that is exploited and occurs in the marine habitats most threatened by human population growth. Syngnthids exhibit cryptic body morphology. This has left scientists uncertain of their taxonomy and systematics, the most basic building blocks of biological knowledge.
          We are creating a comprehensive molecular phylogeny for this important and diverse group of fishes in order to resolve taxonomy, as well as to reveal branch lengths and branching patterns of syngnathid evolution. DNA sequences from representative species of the 54 genera recognized will be deposited with Genbank, the Fish Barcode of Life project, and with Seahorse Sleuth. Collaborating institutions include the University of Papau New Guinea, McGill University, and the South Australian Museum.
          This information will aid in the documentation and conservation of these beautiful fishes by creating a reliable molecular character for identification, and a road map for understanding the evolution of the many unusual and interesting life strategies and morphologies of syngnathids.

Phylogeography of the Giant Pacific Seahorse,
Hippocampus ingens

          Hippocampus ingens was only recently recognized as a species threatened with extinction. It is also an important component in traditional Chinese medicine. With the increased sale of this species in markets around the world genetic data is needed to identify the species and its geographic origin to achieve goals of proper management.
          This project provides baseline data for Seahorse Sleuth and development of fisheries management schemes. Our research has indicated that H. ingens may disperse long distances at sporadic time intervals. Knowledge of a taxon's life history strategies allows scientists and government agencies to develop effective conservation strategies.

Mulitgene Phylogeny of Syngnathiform Fishes

          An estimated 24.5 million or 70 tons of seahorses are captured and sold annually for use in Chinese medicine. Seahorses are protected from exploitation by the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) agreement.
          One of the most vital pieces of information in creating regulations that follow the CITES agreement is understanding the geographic origin of seahorses removed from the wild. Seahorse Sleuth is a site designed as a tool to identify the species and ultimately the geographic origin of seahorses found in international trade using DNA sequence data.

Shallow water octopuses

          CBR has completed analysis for a two gene datasets including over 60 species of shallow water octopuses, including several undescribed species and many species for which no genetic data has ever been published. This work is being conducted in collaboration with Dr. Christine Huffard of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, who is an extraordinary cephalopod natural historian, and Dr. Brian Simison, Assistant Curator and Director of the Center for Comparative Genomics at the California Academy of Sciences.

Whales & Dolphins

Coming soon

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