Annual Award for 2006
This year, we had four submissions. All four were of a very high standard (enough to make me rather ashamed of my own PhD thesis: standards, especially for presentation and techniques, have advanced spectacularly). Nevertheless, there was unanimity on the most outstanding initial contribution.
We therefore announce that this year’s winner of the Annual Award is Dr. Adriaan Gittenberger of Leiden, Netherlands, for his thesis:
“The evolutionary history of parasitic gastropods and their coral hosts in the Indo-Pacific. ”
has used the relationships between parasitic gastropods in the Families
Epitoniidae and Coralliophilidae and their Mushroom Coral hosts (Fungiidae)
to address fundamental questions about the generation of diversity
in the very rich area for marine life, the junction of the Indian
and Pacific Ocean faunas. This has necessitated a significant revision
of the existing taxonomy of the families concerned.
The thesis contains nine chapters. In these, Dr. Gittenberger uses molecular techniques to establish the phylogenies of both the molluscs and their hosts. He relates these to morphological variation (enabling him to take account of ecophenotypic variation in considering taxonomic status). He shows the unreliability of purely morphological characters in unravelling phylogenetic relationships, and identifies some very specific associations between parasites and their hosts. He shows that the radiation of epitoniids on corals stems from a single, initial transfer from sea anemones to true corals; the radiation is monophyletic, and shows elements of co-evolution with the hosts.
The thesis shows a mature combination of rigorous analysis of molecular data, of morphological characters, and of features of the natural history of the species involved. There is a combination of highly skilled laboratory analyses with excellent fieldwork. Three chapters are already published in peer-reviewed journals, and the contribution to the alpha taxonomy of the molluscan families involved is considerable.
Robert Cameron (on behalf of the Award Panel)