The Mote Research Working Group (RWG) provides a unique opportunity for the Eminent Scholar in Marine Biology, Visiting Scholars, and marine scientists and graduate students at Florida State University to develop and explore new, innovative, and topical areas in Marine Biology. Each year, the RWG brings together a small group of experts for approximately one week to integrate existing data and/or formulate new testable hypotheses and approaches for addressing issues important to conservation and ecology of marine systems. The group is housed together in an inspiring location to provide a close interactive environment conducive to deep, focused thinking and sudden insights and discoveries.
Large-scale coral loss has transformed many coral reefs into novel ecosystems. Existing academic literature and reef management initiatives tend to focus on negative outcomes from the loss of hard corals, and most studies focus on mean outcomes rather than explore the potential variance in outcomes for low-coral reefs. Using monitoring data from across the Caribbean, this working group compared levels of key ecological functions and ecosystem services on reefs with higher and lower remaining coral cover, examining the range and variability in outcomes. Overall, we found high variability in the functions and services provided by low-coral reefs, and considerable overlap between outcomes observed at reefs with higher and low coral cover. Although some functions were closely related to coral cover (e.g., coral recruitment, reef accretion), others (e.g., herbivorous fish biomass, fishery value) were not significantly related to coral cover. The insights provided by this work on the functions and services that can persist on low-coral reefs will be valuable for managing the reefs of tomorrow worldwide. In the Anthropocene, we are faced with challenging decisions about how to invest the scarce resources available for conservation, management and restoration, and those resources can be deployed more strategically if we understand the range of outcomes possible from novel ecosystems.
This Mote Research Working Group will bring together expertise on mating system evolution in marine organisms and plants in order to develop new ideas into a call to action. The degree of relatedness between mates has a profound influence on how genetic variation is distributed within and among populations and therefore on the ability for species to respond to environmental changes. A number of the selective forces that contribute to mating system evolution, including gamete limitation, inbreeding depression, and kin structure have been explored individually in marine invertebrates, but neither a synthesis of these concepts into a unified framework, nor a reconciliation with the theory derived for terrestrial plants has emerged.
Clonal marine invertebrates include sponges (multicellular organisms with no organs, but with specialized cells), colonial species consisting of multiple units or modules (e.g., corals, bryozoans, colonial ascidians), or species that produce mobile modules that are physiologically independent (hydroids, anemones). The units or modules include cells (sponges), polyps (cnidarians), or zooids (bryozoans, ascidians), and are genetically identical (though chimeras and colony fusion can occur in some species and modules sometimes show some degree of functional specialization). The size of the module, the degree of module integration, and the overall size and morphology of the organism vary dramatically within and between species from a range of phyla.
Key questions about clonal species addressed by the RWG include:
Publications arising from the 2016 RWG:
Burgess SC, Ryan WH, Blackstone NW, Edmunds PJ, Hoogenboom MO, Levitan DR, Wulff JL. Metabolic scaling in modular animals. Invertebrate Biology 136: 456 - 472