Systematics and biogeography of Indo-West Pacific Cephalaspidea molluscs
Many genera of Cephalaspidea remain poorly understood across the vast span of the Indo-West Pacific tropical region, the most biodiverse marine realm in the World. We have several ongoing studies focused on the systematic and speciation of several genera of these gastropods with an emphasis on the family Haminoeidae (e.g. Haminoea, Phanerophthalmus, Philine, Smaragdinella).
For example, Smaragdinella is a small genus of sea slugs 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.
All these projects aim to study the diversity and systematics of these genera 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 their evolution (speciation) and biogeography. Gut contents will be extracted and analyzed under a scanning electron microscope to shed light on the trophic relationships of these animals.