Analyzing morphological forms within southeastern river system species complexesEPA Grant Number: U914962
Title: Analyzing morphological forms within southeastern river system species complexes
Investigators: Mihalcik, Elizabeth L.
Institution: University of Florida
EPA Project Officer: Michaud, Jayne
Project Period: January 1, 1996 through May 22, 1998
Project Amount: $102,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (1996) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: Fellowship - Zoology , Academic Fellowships , Biology/Life Sciences
The objectives of this research project are to: (1) utilize morphology, allozyme electrophoresis, mitochondrial DNA, and behavioral factors relating to life history, ecology, and microhabitat deployment to define the morphological forms within the species complex in the Southeastern river systems of Georgia, Florida, and Alabama; and (2) examine chemical and physical stream characteristics with the remaining populations to determine their water quality tolerances within the study area. Preliminary investigation of field and museum material indicate that the Elimia curvicostata complex consists of five species within the study area that are morphologically, geographically, and ecologically distinct. Preliminary data indicate that dispersal is geographically and ecologically limited within their ranges. We hypothesize that five morphological forms are valid species, and each form is endemic to a single-river drainage system as opposed to previous taxonomic treatments that recognized only a single species distributed throughout this area.
This research project will: (1) provide a systematic basis applicable to regional regulations governing land and water management within the study area; (2) provide the taxonomic status needed to protect these distinct species; and (3) be the first major comprehensive systematic and biogeographic study on a North American pleurocerid snail species using morphological, biogeographic, genetic, and environmental data. In only a few cases has this approach been used, such as with the Japanese pleurocerid species Semisulcospira (Davis, 1969). Prior studies on southeastern snail species have addressed some aspects of morphology, allozyme, or biogeography data, but did not incorporate environmental data within the study (Chambers, 1980, 1982, 1990; Hershler and Thompson, 1991). This analysis will utilize morphological and genetic components to provide a model for investigating the validity of other pleurocerid taxa. It also will provide an insight into pleurocerid systematics and evolution within river drainage systems.