New Nemertean Diversity Discovered in the Northeast Pacific, Using Surveys of Both Planktonic Larvae and Benthic Adults
MetadataShow full item record
This study doubles the known diversity of nemertean species in one region along the northeast Pacific coast by utilizing the often over-looked larval life-history stage. Prior to this work, the nemertean fauna in this region was believed to be well described; however, previous assessments were based on adult life-history stages only and significantly underestimated the real diversity. With this dissertation, we update what is known about nemertean diversity and expand upon this “life-history” approach to describe new species, identify and describe larval forms, and speculate on the phylogenetic relevance of nemertean larvae. A considerable amount of new diversity takes the form of cryptic species complexes, where existing descriptions include characteristics of several species. Micrura alaskensis, a common intertidal nemertean and an emerging model system for developmental studies, existed as a species complex consisting of five species. In this dissertation we designate a new genus, re-describe M. alaskensis, and describe four new species in this complex. In doing so we make accurate identification possible for future comparative research. The complete development of few nemertean species was known before this project began, thus few species could be identified as larvae. We have identified over 30 nemertean larvae using both embryological and DNA barcoding approaches in this work. Intriguingly, many wild-caught larvae could not be matched to species previously reported from this region and instead contribute to previously unknown diversity. This new diversity includes species previously reported only from distant geographic regions as well as species new to science. The first record of a hubrechtid on the west coast of North America and the identification of two new species in the currently monotypic genus Riserius were revealed in larval assessments. Aside from increasing known species-level diversity, we revealed novel larval types. Barcoding larvae allowed us to place larval morphotypes into a phylogenetic context and identify potentially useful larval synapomorphies for nemertean phylogenies. Our results emphasize the importance of a life-history approach to biodiversity assessments for all species with biphasic life-cycles. This dissertation includes published and unpublished co-authored material.