Student NameEmily Rose Sharkey
Faculty Mentor NameDr. Gustav Paulay
CollegeCollege of Agricultural and Life Sciences
MajorMarine Sciences
Research InterestsBrittle Star Morphology and Genetics, Invertebrate Biodiversity, Cryptic Species
Academic AwardsMatthaei Ecological Scholar
OrganizationsUF Crew, National Society of Leadership and Success, UF Navigators
Hobbies and InterestsHiking, Springs, Kayaking, Reading, Paddle-boarding

Research Project

Cryptic Speciation in the Genus Ophioderma

Understanding species limits is a first step to understanding speciation. Genetic work has begun the process of clarifying species limits in morphologically cryptic complexes. Ophioderma species all appear to have lecithotrophic development, and some are brooders, making them prone to cryptic speciation.
I have already begun work with the genus Ophioderma with specimens of five species (Ophioderma appressum, O. cinera O. brevispina, O. brevicaudum and O. rubicundum) from different areas of the Caribbean basin. 43 specimens yielded fifteen somewhat distinct fallouts on a tree. I will expand the sequences of species initially investigated in the first phase of the project. I will be adding additional species from the same genus, including Ophioderma phoenia, O. guttata, O. squamosissima. The genetic analysis should reveal further cryptic speciation, with greater certainty then the first phase.
DNA will be extracted and the Folmer region of Cytochrome Oxidase I will be amplified with echinoderm-specific primers, PCR products visualized by gel electrophoresis, and sequenced at ICBR. Sequence data will be cleaned up and aligned in Genious and relationships assessed using neighbor-joining and maximum-likelihood. These additional sequences will be complied with the previous sequence results to help more fully understand the genus.