Syntax: 2010-2011 results

The closing date for applications to the 2010/11 round was 31st January 2011 and the following projects were funded.

  1. Collins (University of York) and Barnes (Royal Holloway, University of London) 
    Collagen: the barcode of death
    By developing a tool for routine identification of samples, and providing a means to infer the evolutionary relationships of novel palaeontological specimens, the project is inherently taxonomic and systematic. The proposed case studies deal with evolutionary histories of three poorly resolved groups of taxa, and will substantially enhance our understanding of evolution, adaptation, radiation and convergence, whilst also improving collections management for Quaternary fossil material.
  2. Purvis (Imperial College London) and Darling (University of Edinburgh)
    Species limits in planktonic foraminifera
    Planktonic foraminifera have probably the best fossil record of any group, making them a model system for macroevolutionary research. However, genetic evidence indicates that many of the extant species recognised from morphology contain deep divergences, at least some of which probably delimit good genetic species. We propose two linked investigations. (1) We will apply a recently-developed analytical approach to demarcate the genetic species statistically; this will also estimate their ages. (2) We will use non-destructive computer tomography (CT) scans of sequenced specimens on four morphospecies, with the aim of identifying morphological criteria for diagnosing the genetic species.
  3. Bass (Natural History Museum) and Neuhauser (University of Innsbruck)
    Phytomyxids: A hidden world of parasites and symbionts
    Phytomyxid protists are very poorly known rhizarian parasites/symbionts of plants, algae, and oomycetes. Recent molecular environmental studies suggest that they are much more diverse, and have a wider range of host species, than previously known. These studies have also begun to reveal related but highly distinct lineages about which nothing else is known. This project will sample phytomyxids and their relatives from environmental samples in a much more targeted way than previously attempted, and will use ecological, phylogenetic, and morphological (microscopy and culture-based) techniques to strongly advance knowledge of this group and their position on the eukaryote tree of life.
  4. Purnell (University of Leicester)
    Taphonomic bias in taxonomic and systematic analysis of fossils
    Recent work has reaffirmed the importance of fossils, especially those representing non-biomineralised animals, in systematic and evolutionary biology (see Background and Rationale). This research will have a direct bearing on the taxonomy and phylogenetic systematic analysis of non-biomineralised fossils, particularly phyllocarids and potential stem malacostracans (crustaceans). It will allow us to understand how taphonomic processes of decay and preservation distort and bias the taxonomic and systematic information content of exceptionally-well-preserved fossils. Without this understanding such fossils cannot realise their true potential.
  5. Falcon-Lang (Royal Holloway University of London)
    Early angiosperm diversity and ecology: seeing the trees from the wood
    This project addresses Charles Darwin’s “abominable mystery”: the origin, evolution and ecology of the earliest angiosperms. Specifically, it focuses on fossil wood, which has received little attention in earlier studies of angiosperm evolution. Using morphometrics and multivariate character analysis, I plan to identify Cretaceous (140-65 million year old) fossil wood assemblages with greater taxonomic precision than previously possible to improve knowledge of angiosperm diversity during a crucial evolutionary phase. This ‘proof of concept’ study will be used as a springboard for a NERC Standard Grant application.
  6. Wills (University of Bath) and Wilkinson (The Natural History Museum)
    Building the arthropod supertree interactively: Malacostracan crustaceans as a test case
    We will produce MRP and other supertrees of malacostracan species, synthesising 200+ primary trees from the literature. Rather than generate this as a one-off, all of the data and trees will be made available online. This will be searchable using numerous tags (e.g., source data type, publication year, authors, tree and node support metrics) and linked to embedded software enabling inexperienced users to generate error-free supertrees to any specifications. In addition, the project will embed taxonomic knowledge, ensuring standard and repeatable best practice. This will constitute a proof of principle pilot for a proposed interactive supertree database of all arthropods.
    Sands and Griffiths (British Antarctic Survey)
    Systematics and taxonomy of Antarctic ophiuorids: a next-gen holistic approach
    We propose to refine and demonstrate the application of genomics using next generation sequencing technology to facilitate morphology based systematics and taxonomy of individual specimens. We will address a complex taxonomic issue present in Antarctic ophiuroids involving potential generic synonyms and species complexes by sequencing thousands of gene regions for each individual, determining allelic variation of each gene, and co-analysing both phylogeny and multi-locus genotype clustering using a user-friendly bioinformatic pipeline. The holistic approach we propose will radically alter and reduce to laboratory time and costs of molecular evolutionary studies, while greatly increasing the amount of data and its applicability.
  7. Wüster and Mulley (School of Biological Sciences, Bangor University)
    Cryptic reptile diversity in a floristic biodiversity hotspot
    Effective conservation of biodiversity hotspots requires information on the diversity of all major groups of organisms. The southern African Cape Floristic Region (CFR) has been recognised primarily for its floral diversity, but early data suggest that it may be of hitherto underestimated importance for faunal diversity. We seek to develop and use microsatellite markers to investigate and redefine species limits in four species of CFR reptile showing strong phylogeographic structure, with the aim of uncovering cryptic species, and as a prelude to wider-ranging studies on the patterns and processes of reptile speciation in the CFR.
  8. Wilkinson (The Natural History Museum) and Day (University College London)
    History and Future of the Seychelles Herpetofauna
    The research is on diversity and its causes at a number of temporal scales and is thus broadly systematic. Seychellean caecilians are monophyletic with currently six species in three genera. Previous taxonomic treatments, the most recent more than 50 years ago, have disagreed on genera and on whether island populations of the six currently recognised species, which show some morphological differences, represent distinct taxa. We will test species and generic concepts using molecules and morphology and provide a comprehensive taxonomic review of the group. Revisionary taxonomy will also underpin the planned comparative broadening of this study to other taxa.
  9. Pennington (Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh) and Coley (Department of Biology, University of Utah)
    Chemistry, taxonomy and diversification in tropical plants: a case study of Inga
    Inga is one of the most important tree genera in the rain forests of Latin America. It is species-rich, abundant, and economically important because of its edible fruits and rapid growth, which make it widely used as a multipurpose tree in agroforestry (e.g., as coffee shade). This proposal will deliver bespoke DNA markers for Inga that can improve species delimitation, provide a resolved species phylogeny, and investigate intraspecific genetic variation. An improved taxonomy and phylogeny will underpin future applied research on Inga species and be a springboard to understanding the processes that have led to its high diversity.
  10. Dentinger (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew) and McLaughlin (University of Minnesota)
    Molecular systematics of the enigmatic attine-ant mutualistic coral mushroom family Pterulaceae
    The attine ant-fungus mutualism is a classic coevolutionary system. Recent evidence suggests one small group of attines in the genus Apterostigma switched fungal cultivars twenty million years ago from gilled to coral mushrooms (Pterulaceae), a remarkable event that remains unexplained. This project will improve our systematic knowledge of the Pterulaceae by identifying phylogenetically informative loci and improving taxon sampling. The results will provide the foundation for a contemporary systematic revision of a poorly known group of fungi, allowing for the formal taxonomic classification of the unusual coral mushroom ant cultivars for the first time.
  11. Scotland (University of Oxford) and Carine (Natural History Museum, Dept of Botany)
    Foundation Monographs – accelerating the pace of taxonomy
    This research project is fundamentally taxonomic in scope and content.
    Leitch (Queen Mary University of London) and Leitch (Jodrell Laboratory)
    Status of homoploid hybrids in a model genus for sympatric speciation
    Interspecific hybridization events differ in their propensity to produce new hybrid species, both at the allopolyploid and homoploid level. Factors affecting these propensities are poorly understood, partly due to a lack of alpha-taxonomy on homoploid hybrids. The plant genus Tragopogon L. (Asteraceae) includes classic models species for the study of allopolyploid speciation in the USA. The genus also contains many European homoploid hybrids. These hybrids have not been investigated despite the valuable insight it will give to our understanding of related allopolyploid species. We will characterize their parentage and stability and to determine whether incipient speciation is occurring.
  12. Shaw (Centre for research in Ecology) and Emerson (Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia)
    A molecular taxonomic approach to resolving species boundaries within British members of the genera Lepidocyrtus and Entomobrya (Arthropoda: Pancrustacea: Collembola).
    We intend to use mitochondrial and nuclear DNA to validate species boundaries in two widespread genera of UK Collembola; Lepidocyrtus and Entomobrya. Existing taxonomy in both is colour-based and suspect. Recent work around the Mediterranean basin has shown the same morphospecies of Lepidocyrtus that occur in the UK to contain multiple unrelated clades. It is unclear whether most UK records of Entomobrya nivalis are valid or mixed with E. intermedia. We will collect these surface-active Collembola from multiple habitats either side of the Devensian borderline, seeking to establish the genetic validity of species boundaries as currently defined.