1Department of Biological Sciences, University of South Carolina, USA
2Center of Marine Sciences (CCMAR), University of Algarve, Portugal
Dear IOTN readers,
We have been conducting research on the sea turtle specific barnacle, Stephanolepas muricata. Sea turtles are known to host diverse communities of epibiota by providing the substratum needed for their attachment. S. muricata is an embedding barnacle specific to cheloniid sea turtles and was previously believed to be restricted to the Indo-Pacific. However, the species was discovered relatively recently in the Atlantic Ocean (Frick et al., 2011). Individuals are relatively difficult to detect in the field and little is known about the dispersal behaviour of S. muricata, making it difficult to establish whether its newfound presence in the Atlantic is the result of a recent invasion or perhaps simply a lack of historical documentation.
To address these questions, we have begun a global genetic study that aims to determine possible routes of invasion into the Atlantic, as well as if the barnacle exhibits host species specificity. We also hope to better understand the transmission and potential gene flow in these barnacles between populations and across host taxa. By comparing the population genetic structure of this species and its host, it may be possible to infer non-reproductive connectivity between turtle populations (e.g. on feeding grounds) and, potentially, pathways of infection between turtle species with non-overlapping niches.
Unfortunately, we are lacking any samples from the Indian Ocean- which is a key component of addressing these questions. If anyone encounters these in the field, we would be very grateful if you could let us know via email. We have put together a fact sheet about the barnacle, and how to store any specimens you might collect. You can access the fact sheet at this web address: http://tinyurl. com/hfsoecv. Please email Mark A. Roberts (email@example.com) or Nadège Zaghdoudi-Allan (nadegeallan@ gmail.com) for further information.
Frick MG , Zardus JD, Ross A , Senko J , Montano-Valde D, Bucio-Pacheco M, Sosa-Cornejo I. 2011. Novel records and observations of the barnacle S. muricata (Cirripedia: Balanomorpha: Coronuloidea); including a case for chemical mediation in turtle and whale barnacles. Journal of Natural History 45: 629-640
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