Two longtime friends of the RMBR are back in town – Prof Danièle Guinot (Emeritus Professor, Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, France) and Dr Paul Clark (Researcher in the Crustacea Research Group, The Natural History Museum (NHM), London).
This time, Danièle and Paul are working with Prof Peter Ng and Dr Joelle Lai, post doctoral fellow in the Systematics and Ecology Lab, NUS on an integrated research project entitled “Xanthid phylogeny: a revision using a multi-character and multi-gene approach”. They were awarded a grant by the European Distributed Institute of Taxonomy (EDIT). The primary focus of the project is to test the existing hypothesis that the Xanthidae is divided into 13 monophyletic subfamilies using molecular data, or offer a new classification with clarification from the fossil record. Mr JC Mendoza, a Phd student in the Systematics and Ecology Lab, will also be joining the group.
The xanthids are the most species-rich brachyuran group in reef habitats worldwide with over 600 species; ca. 10% of all crabs described. The 13 subfamilies in Xanthidae were established earlier based on adult morphology but it has since been recognised that some of the taxa may be founded on convergence. Subsequent phylogenetic analyses based on adult characters have also shown incongruent phylogenies in the family. Consequently, the present investigation is being carried out using molecular methods.
As part of the project, Joelle spent six weeks in the NHM in Jan/Feb 2010 sequencing the DNA from 200 xanthid tissue samples collected earlier by Paul and Peter. Danièle and Paul are now in Singapore to continue working with the NUS group on the second part of the project, which involves using the molecular tree compiled by Joelle and the reassignment of problem genera to a new classification using adult xanthid crab characters.
(From left: Dr Joelle Lai, Prof Danièle Guinot, Prof Peter Ng, Dr Paul Clark and Mr JC Mendoza.)
[Photograph by Tan Heok Hui]