student profile: Miss Cara Van Der Wal


Thesis work

Thesis title: Using molecular approaches to resolve phylogenetic relationships within Crustacea

Supervisors: Nathan LO , Simon HO

Thesis abstract:

Mantis shrimps (Crustacea: Stomatopoda) are ecologically and often economically significant crustaceans, being dominant predators in many coastal ecosystems and serving as an important fisheries resource. They are phylogenetically important as presumed basal eumalacostracans, and in being a highly specialized rather than highly diversified lineage. Their extreme specializations for hunting combine sophisticated vision and powerful raptorial appendages adapted for ‘smashing’ and ‘spearing’ prey. Despite these unique attributes, much remains unknown about stomatopod systematics, evolution and phylogeny. I intend to test the interrelationships of stomatopod families and superfamilies, and to determine the origins of their raptorial appendages. The project will take advantage of high-throughput sequencing (HTS) methodology to sequence entire mitochondrial genomes and complete nuclear ribosomal fragments of an extended data set. This will enable us to infer a robust phylogeny, revise the current classification if necessary and trace unique characters. This project will significantly expand our understanding of stomatopod evolution and provide a comprehensive picture of the genetic diversity within the group, which will be useful for a wide range of disciplines.

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