Phylogenetic Relationships of Marine Green Algal Symbionts, Focusing on Biogeography and Specificty of the Zoochlorellae:Anthopleura Symbiosis

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Molly Letsch

My project is focused on examining the systematics and biogeography of green algae symbionts (“zoochlorellae”, Chlorophyta) inhabiting marine invertebrates. My first objective for this project is to determine the diversity and distribution of the zoochlorellae that inhabit two species of sea anemones in the genus Anthopleura in the eastern Pacific. Molecular markers are be utilized to characterize the genetic variation in zoochlorellae and test whether this variation is partitioned between host species, or across their geographic range. The distributional pattern for


zoochlorellae will be contrasted with the patterns established for the dinoflagellate symbionts of these same Anthopleura spp. My second objective for this project is to examine the extent of green symbionts in marine invertebrates. I plan to obtain genetic information from the green algal symbionts of other Pacific anemones. These data will be compared phylogenetically with the data from the zoochlorellae of the East Pacific Anthopleura to determine if the green symbionts represent a single evolutionary lineage.