Trevor Anderson, Zoology

Contact 351800

Conus Diversity

The National Science Foundation has awarded a grant to Dr. Alan Kohn
of the University of Washington to improve and modernize the
classification and systematics of an unusually diverse as well as
ecologically and biomedically important group of marine snails. Conus,
with more than 500 species worldwide in tropical and subtropical seas, is
the largest genus of marine animals. Ecological studies of Conus
assemblages have helped show why tropical reef-associated habitats support
such high biodiversity. All Conus species produce potent venoms called
conotoxins used to subdue prey. These conotoxins produce potent venoms
called conotoxins used to subdue prey.  These conotoxins are now widely
used in neurobiology, and the number of medicines derived from them is
increasing rapidly. While Conus is a major contributor to biodiversity in
the sea, it presents many challenges in identification and classification.

The project will use both modern molecular sequencing and quantitative
analysis of anatomical features in classification and will elucidate the
history of rapid diversification of Conus. It will create a website with
extensive, illustrated entries for all species and will enhance access to
the results in print as well as electronic media. The first database to be
prepared for the website will be a catalogue of the more than 3,000
described species in the genus. Of these, the most recent 900 have already
been incorporated into an online database. However, the remaining more
than 2,000 entries must be imported from a catalogue published in 1937. A
catalogue of all the described species in a taxon is a sine qua non for
the systematist. This is the material that we propose to text-scan,
incorporate with our existing database, and make broadly accessible.