Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VME) project helps discover identity of cryptic deep-sea sea pens!

Dr  Tabitha Pearman

Results are in! Through collaborative research with The University of Aberdeen we are now able to confirm that one of the sea pens under study is the trans-Atlantic Anthoptilum glandiforum. Zoë Francis supervised by Professor Stuart Piertney, undertook the genetic analysis of tissue samples as part of her BSc thesis.

Anthoptilum glandiforum is a trans-Atlantic species occurring as far north as Canada! Due to its large distribution some scientist believe it to be a cryptic species (where two or more species look exactly alike). To confirm its identification DNA barcoding was used to compare the DNA of the Falkland Islands’ sea pens to a global sea pen DNA catalogue, which confirmed them as being Anthoptilum glandiforum.

 Now, we are collecting more specimens with the aim of performing population connectivity analysis to see how interconnected different populations around the Falkland Islands are.

Sea pen ‘meadow’ or ‘field’ in sandy mud observed at a water depth of 1200m.

Thanks to the great work of Zoë Francis, we can now confirm Anthoptilum glandiforum as one of the species of sea pen occurring within the deep-sea surrounding the Falkland Islands. 

Image: Noble Energy Falklands Limited.
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