Diversity and biogeography of the organ pipe coral Tubipora

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Project Description

In the tropical marine environment, coral-dominated benthic communities are characterized by a high biological diversity. In coral reef communities, different taxa of benthic marine invertebrates play a key role in structuring the environment and providing habitat for other organisms. Several reef building cnidarians are in symbiosis with the photosynthetic Symbiodinaceae, or zooxanthellae. Among those, the zooxanthellate octocoral genus Tubipora is a common, locally abundant and yet poorly known component in the Red Sea and the Indo-Pacific coral communities. Easily recognized underwater and in the fossil record, despite a remarkable morphological variation of the living animal, the genus is currently considered monospecific. However, preliminary molecular phylogenies have shown that several morpho-molecular species might actually exist. Moreover, the diversity of the invertebrate fauna associated with Tubipora, and hence its role as a biodiversity aggregator, remains unexplored. We are looking for a graduate student to: 1) investigate the morpho-molecular diversity of Tubipora in the Red Sea and the Indo-Pacific, 2) provide a preliminary characterization of the zooxanthellae communities and invertebrate fauna associated to Tubipora in the Red Sea.
Program - Marine Science
Division - Biological and Environmental Sciences and Engineering
Field of Study - ​​Coral reef biodiversity

About the
Researcher

Francesca Benzoni

Associate Professor, Marine Science

Francesca Benzoni
Dr. Francesca Benzoni is an Associate Professor of Marine Science in the KAUST Red Sea Research Center (RSRC). Prof. Benzoni is a marine biologist and her research has focused on the evolution, diversity and ecology of corals and coral-dominated assemblages in the Indo-Pacific region, with a strong focus on the seas around Arabia.