Yesterday, at Evolution 2009 I also attended the talk of Maria Miglietta from KZ’s old stomping grounds. Maria discussed work on species geographic boundaries of vestmentiferan tube worms primarily in the Gulf of Mexico. Let me say the irony of seeing a deep-sea talk in the middle of Idaho is not lost on me.
Examining a variety of genes she finds that many of the morphospecies of tubeworms in the GOM are not genetically differentiated. Interestingly, her analyses also show that pretty much everything splits into two major groups, the Lammelibrachia and just about everything else. It will be interesting to see if she can eventually elucidate the when and why of this evolutionary split. One of the most exciting findings is that a species from the GOM, near Africa, and the Pacific are genetically very similiar suggesting 1.) the species has an incredible larval dispersal phase or 2.) that many undiscovered cold seeps, the habitat of the species Miglietta is examining, exist that would serve as stepping stones for the species.