Molecular characterization of recent echinoderms

Flagship project
Yves Samyn (RBINS) and Didier VandenSpiegel (RMCA)
JEMU partner: 
Nathalie Smitz, Gontran Sonet and Massimiliano Virgilio
Project summary: 
About 8,000 species of echinoderms have been described worldwide and, according to the Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD,, approximately a forth of them have been barcoded. However, less than 300 of the ca. 29,000 echinoderm barcode records available on BOLD are from South Africa, a country with a coastline of more than 2,500 km on both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. This project will in the first place deliver COI DNA sequences obtained from specimens and taxa collected in locations were no such records are known. Sequences of these >350 specimens will be publicly available on GenBank and BOLD and will allow cross-identifications of specimens of sea urchins, sea cucumbers, ophiuroids and starfish identified through traditional taxonomy. In particular, they will help identifying crinoids sampled during five expeditions in South Africa. For the sea cucumbers of the family Holothuriidae, barcodes will be used in an integrative systematical revision currently developed at the University of Florida. Finally, updated checklists of the shallow water echinoderms of KwaZulu-Natal will be elaborated using the DNA data produced here.
Gustav Paulay, Florida Museum of Natural History, U.S.A. Tim O’Hara, Museum Victoria, Australia Bruno Danis, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium
Lab work progress: 
Completed: >350 COI sequences produced
Data analysis: 
Integrative taxonomy in progress
Starting date: 
Project status: 
In progress

Output: COI sequences of a total of 351 specimens collected during five different campaigns (from 1999 to 2016) in the North and South of the KwaZulu-Natal Province, across two distinct offshore environments have been obtained. Morphological and molecular identifications allowed distinguishing ca. 114 species, including a number of new records for the country and some putative new species. These included Crinoidea (96 specimens and ca. 10 species), Ophiuroidea (95 specimens and ca. 44 species), Asteroidea (48 specimens and ca. 19 species), Echinoidea (27 specimens and ca. 12 species) and Holothuroidea (85 specimens and ca. 29 species). Data still private in BOLD.

Abstracts presented at the 7th International Barcode of Life Conference:

Samyn Y., Sonet G., Smitz N. & Meganck K., 2017. DNA barcoding echinoderms of the East Coast of South Africa In: Scientific abstracts from the 7th International Barcode of Life Conference, Genome, vol. 60, pp. 992.

Samyn, Y., Sanctobin, G., Meganck, K. & Smitz, N. 2017. Integrative taxonomy of the crinoids (Echinodermata: Crinoidea) of the shallow-waters of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa In: Scientific abstracts from the 7th International Barcode of Life Conference, Genome, vol. 60, pp. 992.

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith