Award Announcement - RUI: SG: Collaborative Research: Phylogenomics and diversification of the snapping shrimp genus Alpheus

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Snapping shrimp in the genus Alpheus, known for their spectacular color patterns and the explosive snap created by their major claw, are one of the most diverse and abundant animal groups in tropical coral reefs. Snapping shrimp form mutualistic relationships with a diversity of partners such as corals and fish and are emerging as a model group for understanding symbiosis and species diversification in marine environments. However, such studies require a more complete understanding of how many different species of Alpheus exist worldwide, and the relationships among these species. This research will address these questions by building an evolutionary tree of the group with next-generation DNA sequencing data. These data will be used to test whether factors such as host symbioses or color patterns drove the spectacular diversification of this group. Studying the biodiversity of this group will help to understand more broadly the origins and maintenance of biodiversity in shallow marine tropical ecosystems. Species pages will be created through the Encyclopedia of Life for public outreach and educational purposes, and a partnership with a science museum will develop workshops in science communication for undergraduates. A graduate student, and multiple undergraduates will also be trained in genetic barcoding, species delimitation, species descriptions, and comparative evolutionary analyses.

This research will produce the first comprehensive global phylogeny of snapping shrimp in the genus Alpheus, spanning >50% of the 300+ described species and using phylogenomic data generated via anchored hybrid enrichment. This phylogeny will be used to test long-standing taxonomic and morphological questions in Alpheus, such as the monophyly of morphologically defined species groups and the role of habitat use in driving instances of morphological convergence. A comprehensive genetic barcoding survey of field and museum specimens will help estimate the existing worldwide biodiversity of the group. Using phylogenetic reconstructions, fieldwork, and color pattern analyses, researchers will test whether color patterns - long hypothesized to have systematic importance - are important factors in establishing species boundaries. Finally, the phylogenomic tree and data on worldwide patterns of species diversity will be used to test whether species diversification in Alpheus is linked to ecological factors such as symbiosis.