Daphne Fautin, curator
I study all aspects of sea anemones, including their evolutionary relationships -- and so have published on related taxa as well (C.V. available here). I continue to publish on the subject of my Ph.D. research -- sea anemone reproduction. But most of my current research is on taxonomy of anemones (in the broad sense), particularly those of the deep sea and Indo-Pacific.
Much of my taxonomic research has focused on anemones that form symbioses;
one of the most remarkable aspects of sea anemones is the diversity of organisms with which they associate. I have studied the anemones that host clownfishes (= anemonefishes), as well has some that associate with fishes of other taxa, with anemoneshrimps and hermit crabs, and with
photosymbionts (generally termed zooxanthellae).
I have built a database to all the taxa of hexacorallians, the group that
includes sea anemones. It is virtually complete for members of Actiniaria
and Corallimorpharia, and includes much information for the other
hexacorallian taxa. For anemones, this includes all the names published
according to the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, the
bibliographic references to those names, type specimens that document
those names, and other major taxonomic and biogeographic publications, so
for every species, I have compiled an inventory of names that have been
applied to it and an inventory of localities from which it has been
I have used this database for research on topics such as sea anemone
distribution and the possible effects of lowered pH on the distribution of
deep-sea corals. I contribute data from this database to the
international consortia OBIS (the Ocean Biogeographic Information System)
and GBIF (the Global Biodiversity Information Facility). I have served on
the governing bodies of both organizations, as well as the US National
Committee for the Census of Marine Life, which was the organization that
I am a Commissioner for the International Commission on Zoological
Nomenclature (ICZN), and currently serve as its Vice President. The
activities of the ICZN are directly relevant to my taxonomic research
Paulyn Cartwright, research associate
My research involves investigating the phylogenetic relationships and developmental mechanisms underlying the evolution of Hydrozoa. Many hydrozoans display a life cycle that includes a free-living larval stage, a benthic colonial stage and a pelagic medusa stage. Losses and re-appearence of each of these life cycle stages,, as well as major morphological modifications of colonies and medusae, have occurred multiple times in hydrozoan evolution. My aim is to unravel the patterns of hydrozoan life-cycle and morphological transitions by applying a molecular phylogenetic approach. Using phylogenies as a frame-work, I also investigate the developmental processes that underly hydrozoan character evolution through the characterization of gene expression. More information is available here.
Andrea Crowther, doctoral candidate
My dissertation research involves shallow, tropical sea anemones that possess branched outgrowths and spherical defensive structures. These sea anemones form mutualistic relationships with zooxanthellae, which photosynthesize and provide the anemone with sugars. It is inferred that the outgrowths serve to increase surface area and thereby sea anemones that possess them may accommodate more zooxanthellae. Associated with branched outgrowths are spheres composed largely of stinging capsules that presumably defend the sea anemone from predators.
I am investigating if these sea anemones that have similar morphology are evolutionarily closely related. I am using methods of taxonomy and phylogenetics to sort out whether the similarity in morphology is due to common ancestry or may be a result of species living in similar environmental niches (convergent evolution). To do this, I am investigating the fine details of their morphology and analyzing molecular data using specimens in museum collections and ones that I have collected from the field. Being able to determine whether sea anemones possessing branched outgrowths and spherical defensive structures are most closely related to each other, rather than any other sea anemones, will provide insight into how many times this morphology may have evolved.