Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Proceedings, Presentations, Speeches, Lectures

Assembling the Echinoderm Tree of Life: Challenges and Plans

Event Name/Location

2010 GSA Annual Meeting, Denver, CO, October 31 - November 3, 2010

Presentation Date


Document Type





A multidisciplinary team of biologists have recently assembled to study echinoderm phylogeny. The team has an award from the National Science Foundation Program, Assembling the Tree of Life. The five living classes of echinoderms are Asteroidea, Crinoidea, Echinoidea, Holothuroidea, and Ophiuroidea. However, these classes represent a shadow of both the full morphological disparity and diversity of Lower Paleozoic echinoderms that includes as many as 21 classes. Phylogenetic analysis of living echinoderms remains challenging. Moreover a complete echinoderm evolutionary tree will have to incorporate all echinoderm lineages and key outgroups to link echinoderms into the broader tree of life. The project is organized with the following working groups: genomics, morphology, informatics, and outreach. Our goals include genomic sampling of numerous exemplars among the five living echinoderm classes, integration of genomic and morphologic data of living echinoderms with Cenozoic and Mesozoic fossil data, definition of Paleozoic clades, and positioning sister group relationships among the stem group echinoderm clades. Homology among distinctive echinoderm groups must be established first despite diverse nomenclature. Data will be analyzed with multiple hypotheses of outgroups and characters by teams of echinoderms specialists. Collaborations are welcome. Outreach will include videos and broadcasts about marine exploration and applications of fundamental biological research across the biomedical sciences.


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Additional Comments

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 42, No. 5, p. 95

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