The 12th International Coral Reef Symposium

The 12th International Coral Reef Symposium
Date: 9-13 July 2012
Place: Cairns, Queensland, Australia


1) Brunson, D. and Kerr, A. M. 2012. Stock assessment of sea cucumbers on Guam, Micronesia

Sea cucumbers (Holothuroidea) are commercially valuable echinoderms found in abundance on many tropical reefs. Holothuroids used for food are known as trepan or beche-de-mer and demand for it has led to collapse of sea-cucumber populations in several island ecosystems. To prevent overharvesting on Guam, in the Mariana Islands, Micronesia, we have begun a comprehensive stock assessment of the population structure of commercially important species. We are also exploring the role of marine protected areas in the management of holothuroids. Stock surveys are done using transects, timed swims and length measurements done in situ. Preliminary findings include the possibility of a small sustainable fishery for several species and evidence of the overharvesting of some species by subsistence fishermen. Our goal is to establish the circum-island distribution of species and provide the government of Guam with a management plan for the sustainable harvest of sea cucumbers.

2)  Kim SW, Kerr AM and Paulay G. 2012. Molecular systematics of the tropical sea cucumbers, Bohadschia (Holothuriidae: Holothuroidea)

Even with uncountable numbers of reef biodiversity studies, we are still ignorant of the majority of the reef biodiversity. Regardless of its ubiquity throughout the Indo-Pacific and Caribbean Oceans, a large portion of the evolution history of the class Holothuroidea; sea cucumbers, has not been studied at all. Within the class, the genus Bohadschia (Holothuroidea: Holothuriidae) is often considered one of the most taxonomically controversial groups. For example, the morphologically and ecologically distinct B. argus is derived within the taxonomically muddled marmorata-complex. Also, a clade, B. bivittata in part, has tiny lines over its dorsum, a character that was not previously considered taxonomically important. In addition, several species including B. koellikeri appear to be hybrids. Finally, we have a lot more to learn about their systematics as we are discovering many new Bohadschia species.

3)  Miller AK and Kerr AM. 2012. Higher Level Systematics of Holothuroidea

The higher-level systematics of sea cucumbers (Holothuroidea) is currently in a neglected state. The monophyly of most higher level taxonomic groups and their inter-relationships remain uncertain. As part of the NSF-sponsored Assembling the Echinoderm Tree of Life Project (, we will use phylogenomic methods based on transcriptome profiling to develop the most comprehensive Holothuroidea phylogeny to date. We are sampling widely, from the shallow reefs of Malaysia to the deep regions of Antarctica to construct complementary DNA (cDNA) libraries (via transcriptome profiling) from rare and seldom collected species. Molecular and morphological phylogenetic analyses of circa200 exemplars, including fossil taxa, will be used in conjunction with previously developed data sets to redefine higher taxa. We seek to resolve the monophyly of all subclass through most family-level relationships. Preliminary results indicate that the orders Elasipodida, Aspidochirotida, and Dendrochirotida, as well as the subclasses Dendrochirotacea and Aspidochirotacea, are probably non-monophyletic. This indicates that the higher level taxonomy of the class requires major revision. Our full analysis will enable us to resolve relationships between the deep branches within Holothuroidea, an essential preliminary step to understanding a variety of other systematic and comparative evolutionary questions.