Systematics and biogeography of the genus Smaragdinella (Haminoeidae) in the Indo-West Pacific
Smaragdinella is a small genus of sea slug gastropods in the Order Cephalaspidea restricted to the tropical latitudes of the Indo-West Pacific region. This genus is of special evolutionary interest because contrary to all other close relatives that leave in soft-bottom habitats, this genus have specialized to live in rocky shores habitats. Despite this unique ecology very little is known about the diversity and evolution of Smaragdinella snails. The majority of known species have a small plate-like shell which in most cases was the only character used to describe species. Because of the similarities of these shells there are extensive taxonomic confusion within the group. This project aims to study the diversity and systematics of the genus Smaragdinella based on shells, fine-scale anatomical dissections using light and scanning electron microscopy, and molecular phylogenetics using mitochondrial and nuclear genes. The phylogeny coupled with knowledge about the diversity and geography of species will be used to study the evolution (speciation) and biogeography of the genus Smaragdinella. Gut contents will be extracted and analyzed under a scanning electron microscope to shed light on the trophic relationships of Smaragdinella.