Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science

Degree Name

Marine Science

First Advisor

Dr. Timothy Swain

Second Advisor

Dr. Jose Lopez

Third Advisor

Dr. Gustav Paulay


deep-sea, Zoanthidea, Echinodermata, integrative systematics, symbiosis, phylogenetics, morphology


Epizoic Zoanthidea are highly diverse and live symbiotically with at least six invertebrate phyla, but little is known about zoanthideans living on urchin spines. To better understand symbiotic interactions between Echinodermata and Zoanthidea, Atlantic deep-sea Cidaridae urchin specimens from five museums were surveyed to characterize Zoanthidea colonies on their spines. Specimens were obtained from the Gilbert and Nancy Voss Marine Invertebrate Collection at University of Miami, the Florida Museum Invertebrate Zoology Collection, and the collections of James Reimer and Hiroki Kise at the University of the Ryukyus. This research uses an integrative approach to species discovery and systematics. Integrative systematics aims to understand the evolution of morphology, phylogenetics, cytology, and ecology of many available specimens, described taxa, and species not yet identified. To assess species boundaries of museum specimens, known species and binned specimens were screened using species-level genetic markers, host preferences, and collection location and bathymetry, followed by construction of gross and microanatomical profiles of specimens within those bins to compare with previous descriptions or identify novel species. DNA extraction, PCR amplification, and DNA sequencing targeted the nuclear ribosomal internal transcribed spacer gene region for identification of molecular operational taxonomic units followed by molecular phylogenetic tree reconstruction. Although a single Cidaridae-symbiotic Zoanthidea species had been previously described from the Indo-Pacific deep-sea and cnidarian colonies associated with Atlantic deep-sea Cidaridae spines had been previously observed, this is the first research to attempt to verify their identity in the Atlantic deep-sea. Multiple Zoanthidea species were detected associated with at least four Cidaridae host species among the museum specimens examined. These Zoanthidean species here are assigned to genus Epizoanthus and have close affinity with two described Indo-Pacific Epizoanthus species (only one of which is known to associate with urchins). Given the novelty in hosts, ocean basin, morphology, and genetics, these species are likely new to science. The challenging nature of collections-based research resulted in incomplete data collection from all specimens examined which necessitates expansion of this effort to additional collections or fresh sampling.

Available for download on Wednesday, September 11, 2024