Monogamy in mantis shrimp: Field notes from Molly Wright
By UCMP grad student Molly Wright, September 12, 2008
September 12, 2008
Arrival in Moorea
The island of Moorea as seen from the International Space Station. Note the coral reefs ringing the island. Many of the locations that will be mentioned in Molly's reports are indicated.
I'm here both as a researcher and as a teaching assistant for an amazing UCB class: Integrative Biology 158C, Biology and Geomorphology of Tropical Islands. As a third-year graduate student, I am commencing my dissertation field research on the evolution and reproductive behaviors of mantis shrimps. Mantis shrimps (also know as stomatopods) are not actually shrimps, but are instead a distant relative of all decapods (shrimp, crabs, and lobsters). Their formidable raptorial appendages, which are used in foraging, pack quite a punch. In the species Odontodactylus scyllarus, which uses its appendage to smash open snail shells and crab carapaces, the smashing forces reach levels equaling the force from a 50-caliber rifle!
A male (top) and female stomatopod pair (Pullosquilla maculata).
I am also trying to figure out how and why monogamy evolved in this group. To do this, I first need to build an evolutionary tree that includes species in my group of interest. I am collecting many species of Lysiosquilloidea from across the Indo-Pacific, including right here in Moorea. At UCMP, I will be extracting their DNA and comparing several genes to determine their relatedness. I will then use the evolutionary tree to determine how many times monogamy evolved in the Lysiosquilloidea.
Time for me to hit the sack. I'm so excited to see Moorea by daylight. Tomorrow, I'll give you all a little background on the course that I am helping to teach and share some pictures of Moorea during the day!
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Photo of Molly by Tim Dulac; Moorea image courtesy of Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center, photo number ISS007-E-14860, http://eol.jsc.nasa.gov/; photo of Pullosquilla maculata by Roy Caldwell.