Resolving shallow clades of threatened corals using integrated taxonomy and phylogenomics

Research Projects | Updated 2 years ago

Image of Acropora pulchra
Acropora pulchra
Zoe Richards/WA Museum

Scleractinian corals are a diverse group of threatened species that are plagued with taxonomic uncertainty. A recent pulse of molecular studies has transformed scleractinian systematics. As a result, our understanding of coral diversity in Australia is outdated and in urgent need of revision. Shallow clades of the coral phylogeny remain unresolved and this presents a major challenge for resource management, research and conservation. This project will utilize significant new coral collections from the Pilbara and Kimberley regions of WA to address this problem for threatened coral species using phylogenetic and innovative phylogenomic techniques that are grounded with conventional taxonomy. The project will a) provide much-needed new data about threatened species in Australia to benefit national and regional threatened species management, b) clarify phylogenetic relationships between closely related acroporid and poritid corals in Western Australia using a comprehensive multi-locus next generation sequencing approach grounded by comprehensive morphological data, c) fill important knowledge gaps about the monophyly of currently recognized species to benefit future population genetic research, and d) provide a long-overdue revision of the hermatypic coral diversity of Western Australia based on substantial new collections from the Pilbara and Kimberley and using the new coral classification system. New data will also be added to the Australian Faunal Directory, the Atlas of Living Australia and IUCN for incorporation into pending updates of the red list database.


About the project

This project is led by Dr Zoe Richards (Curtin University & Western Australian Museum) in collaboration with Dr Jane Fromont and Dr Nerida Wilson (Western Australian Museum) and Dr Carden Wallace (Queensland Museum).

This project has received funding from the Australian Biological Resources Study.