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Undergraduate Research Project Management System

Molecular and Morphological Diversity of Stylaster Corals in Alaska

Status Complete
Seeking Researchers No
Start Date 09/01/2006
End Date 06/30/2007
Funding Source Undergraduate Research Grants
Funding Amount
Community Partner
Related Course
Last Updated 07/05/2008 01:25AM
Keywords Corals


  Sergei Drovetski

Student Researchers
  Arthur Schultz


Alaskan deepwater corals have received attention in recent years due to the possible impact of commercial fishing on slow growing habitat.  Corals appear to be easily damaged by commercial fishing gear.  Alaska has an abundance of coral species.  Stylasterid "stony" corals are found in regions of heavy trawling activity.  Virtually noting is known about Stylasterid growth or reproductive ecology.  Some species have been described from single specimens and no significant work has been done with North Pacific Stylasters since 1938.  The literature repeatedly warns of classification problems.  Identification of Stylasters cannot be reliably performed using a dichotomous key for Alaskan species.  Recent molecular work has helped to revise another Stylasterid genus.  New species of Errinopora have been identified using DNA sequencing and it is likely that many species of Stylaster remain unknown.  Identification of Stylasterids is difficult.  It is thought that homoplasic morphological characters have been used in Stylaster taxonomy.  This project will sequence 16S mtDNA of Stylaster specimens for phylogenetic analysis.  The specimens will also be examined using scanning electron microscopy.  It is anticipated that revisions of the genus Stylaster will result from this project.  Molecular methods will help to resolve the problems in using morphological characters, or point to more indicative characters to aid in field identification.  This project is an important first step in future research on Stylasterid phylogeny, reproductive ecology and phylogeography.  A greater knowledge of Stylasterid ecology could have profound implications for commercial fisheries regulation and habitat conservation as managers integrate ecosystem based management practices.

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