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Past Research Projects

Mitogenomics and molecular identification of spiders

Spiders are among the oldest and most diverse groups of terrestrial organisms, with a current diversity of over 37,500 described species placed in 3,471 genera and 109 families. From an ecological point of view, spiders are an unequivocally important guild. Furthermore, spiders are model organisms in biochemical (silk proteins and venom), behavioural (especially sexual and web-building behaviours), ecological (foraging, predator-prey systems, integrated pest management), comparative development and speciation research (http://research.amnh.org/atol/files/).

Advancing mitogenomics via ultrasequencing: A case study in the Araneae.

Since the late 1980s, molecular systematics has progressed via the analysis of increasingly larger numbers of genes and characters. At one end of the spectrum, phylogenies are derived from a moderate number of gene partitions, and at the other, genome sequencing and interrogation of expressed sequence tag (EST) libraries are leading to phylogenomic approaches. A compromise between these extremes lies in mitogenomic analyses (the comparative analyses of whole mitochondrial genomes) that have been shown capable of resolving evolutionary relationships among a large range of higher taxa. Although the availability of mitogenomic datasets are increasing, there are still logistical limitations regarding the chain-termination sequencing of c. 15,000 b.p. of sequence data for multiple taxa. A clear solution to this problem lies within ultrasequencing platforms. Despite the ecological and evolutionary significance of the Araneae, our current ability to address comparative phylogenetic hypotheses is severely limited by a lack of a robust phylogenetic framework for the group as a whole. In collaboration with Andy Briscoe, Dr. Sara Goodacre (Nottingham University), Prof. Greg Hurst (University of Liverpool), Dr. Miquel Arnedo (Universitat de Barcelona) and Dr. Susan Masta (Portland State University) this CoSyst-funded project will seek to augment ongoing US AToL endeavours by sequencing and analysing a large number of spider mitogenomes in order to create a robust, family-level phylogenetic framework.

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