Demosponge (phylum Porifera)  Amphimedon queenslandica

Amphimedon queenslandica, as it name suggests, has been largely characterised from the Great Barrier Reef, although there is increasing evidence for a much wider Indo-Pacific distribution. Unlike most sponges, it has brood chambers that house a mixture of embryonic stages.  Larvae emerge from these chambers in a predictable natural pattern throughout the year on Heron Island Reef, making them ideal to study embryogenesis and metamorphosis.  In addition A. queenslandica is the first sponge to have its genome sequenced, assembled and annotated. Indeed, it is the first animal from the Great Barrier Reef or Australian waters to have this honour. Go to Resources

Vetigastropod (phylum Mollusca)  Haliotis asinina

Besides being very tasty, the tropical abalone Haliotis asinina has a number of life history attributes that make it ideal for better understanding the pelagobenthic life cycle that typifies most marine invertebrates. It has a very predictable semilunar spawning cycle for 6 months of the year, ensuring a regular source of naturally-released propagules for study.  It has a very high fecundity, which has allowed us to develop a full suite of  aquaculture and husbandry methods to grow them from egg to mature adult, and analyse every stage of the life. cycle. This haliotid is one of very few equally- cleaving molluscs with extensive developmental, ecological and genomic resources already in hand.

Pyurid ascidian (phylum Chordata)  Herdmania momus (previously known as H. curvata) Herdmania momus is part of a poorly-resolved Indo-Pacific species complex. On Heron Island Reef it is a member of the cryptic community on decaying coral boulders of the reef crest. It also can be found in boat harbours and other built environments throughout the tropical Pacific, including Brisbane’s Moreton Bay.  It is gravid year-round, and appears to ‘trickle spawn’ small numbers of gametes daily at sunset.  Mature gametes can be accumulated in the gonads by keeping animals under constant light, ensuring high numbers of eggs and sperm for experimental fertilisations by strip spawning.


Idiosepiid squid (phylum Mollusca) Idiosepius notoides

In addition to being the smallest known cephalopod, the pygmy squid Idiosepius notoides has a number of life history features that make them ideal for developmental studies.  First, they inhabit coastal shallow sea grass beds of the western Pacific, which particularly at low tide can be extremely inhospitable in terms of temperature and oxygen (i.e. they are easily collected and can withstand rough handling). Second, they readily adapt to an aquarium setting, displaying territorial behaviour and feeding within minutes of capture, and reproducing within days. Over a couple of months they can lay dozens of small clutches of eggs; embryogenesis is relatively rapid, robust and tractable. Being similar in size to the zebrafish, it would not be surprising if advanced methodologies developed for this model fish could be transfered to Idiosepius.

Cryptic benthic fauna

In the field, we spend a lot of time looking under boulders, in coralline algal gardens and at other unassuming and often neglected habitats that can be classified as micro-biodiversity hotspots. Often the diversity in these habitats can only be fully appreciated under a microscope or through a range of novel animal capture techniques. From these observations come a raft of questions, spanning from genomics to ecology. Although we have worked with many different groups in the past - e.g. ascidians, gastropods, demosponges, bryozoans and sipunculans - invertebrates that currently have our attention include entoprocts and stolonate octocorals. These tiny animals can be found littered on a range of biosubstrata.


Regular surveys of zooplankton surrounding Heron Island Reef provide us with a window into this ever-changing and ephemeral community,  yielding insights into the interplay between natural reproductive cycles and oceanographic processes.  It is always amazing to see what can be found (and not found!) in a plankton tow, from larvae to demersals to members of the holoplankton community.

Pteriid bivalve (phylum Mollusca)  Pinctada maxima

The pearl oyster Pinctada maxima famously produces the South Sea pearl, considered by many to be the most prized of all the pearls. The inside of the pearl oyster shell is coated with a highly lustrous and beautiful layer that also forms the outer surface of the pearl.  Through a set of delicate operations, pearlers are able to get a pearl oyster to paint the outside of a transplanted object with this highly-prized material, leading to the biofabrication of a pearl.  Underlying this process is a remarkably complex set of genetic instructions.

Commercial crustaceans (phylum Arthropoda) Marsupenaeus japonicus & Panulirus cygnus

As prawns and shrimp move to becoming fully domesticated, the Kumura Shrimp, Marsupenaeus japonicus, stands as a leading model to understand the genetic basis of reproduction, growth and health.  In collaboration with CSIRO Food Futures Flagship, we are analysing commercially-important traits. The Western Rock Lobster, Panulirus cygnus, is one of Australia’s largest fisheries. Working with the Australian Institute of Marine Science and industry, we have worked on how the western rock lobster changes its shell colour, which impacts on fisheries management and marketability.

Amphimedon queenslandica bacterial symbionts being transported by a maternal nurse cell into an oocyte, visualised by transmission electron microscopy. Image by Bec Fieth and Dr Kathryn Green (UQ Ctr for Microscopy and Microanalysis).