Marine Molecular Biodiversity

Strugnell lab

Lab head

My lab investigates population and species level evolution in molluscs and Antarctic and deep-sea species in the context of past climatic change.  We also apply next generation sequencing tools to help solve bottlenecks in fisheries and aquaculture industries (e.g. lobster, abalone).  I run the the 'Molecular Biodiversity Lab' with Dr Nick Murphy and Dr Susan Hoebee. 

A targeted capture approach to understanding genetic structure in a clade of spiny lobsters

Continual recruitment of young is fundamental to the replenishment of populations, especially when a stock is fished. Existing theory suggests that species with very long planktonic larval stages disperse widely, ensuring their genes are well mixed. However, recently identified genetic differences between populations of rock lobster challenge this paradigm and demonstrate that despite larvae mixing in the ocean for years, local recruitment and/or adaptation are at play.

This ARC funded research will employ genomic and bioinformatics techniques in order toinvestigate the ecological processes underpinning these genetic signatures and determine their evolutionary implications. Such findings could direct targeted rebuilding of depleted fisheries stocks.

Stress transcriptomics: development of tests to reduce the incidence of summer mortality in abalone

Abalone are a high value shellfish and their export is worth over AU$200 million per year to the Australian economy. Mass mortality of farmed abalone during the summer, termed summer mortalities, has been frequently reported in Australia in recent years. This disease is related to increased stress in animals due to high water temperatures and it is likely to become more widespread with predicted rising water temperatures. 

This ARC funded research will investigate the molecular basis of stress and disease in abalone and the genetic mechanisms used to fight them. The results will allow the development of early warning tests of stress and stress resilience resulting in production and economic benefits to the Australian abalone aquaculture industry.

Evolution in Antarctica

Jan with the giant Antarctic octopus, Megaleledone setebos.My research investigates the molecular evolution of Antarctic, Southern Ocean and deep-sea taxa in the context of past climate and geological change (e.g. continental break up, glacial maxima). I am investigating both species-level and population-level molecular evolution and in particular are interested in determining and understanding patterns of divergence, diversification and dispersal.

Molluscan evolution

I am interested in the molecular evolution of molluscs, particularly cephalopods (octopus, squids and cuttlefishes) and pteropods (sea butterflies and sea angels) worldwide. My research uses genetics in conjunction with biogeographical and fossil information to estimate divergence times and phylogenetic relationships in molluscs to help elucidate their evolutionary history.

Toxicity in cephalopods

Representatives of Antarctic and deep-sea octopuses. Clockwise from top left, Pareledone charcoti, Thaumeledone gunteri, Adelieledone polymorpha, Megalaledone setebos.Octopuses, squids and cuttlefishes (cephalopods) are extremely efficient top-level predators. Many, particularly octopuses, use salivary toxins to paralyse prey. Others deploy defensive toxins and advertise these using dramatic warning colours. With collaborators from Museum Victoria, I am investigating the expression, evolution and complexity of toxins amongst major cephalopod groups.

Honours, postgraduate and post-doctoral research projects in any of these areas are available.