Unrecognized Antarctic biodiversity: a case study of the genus Odontaster (Odontasteridae; Asteroidea)

Integr Comp Biol. 2010 Dec;50(6):981-92. doi: 10.1093/icb/icq119. Epub 2010 Sep 3.


Antarctica has a complex and multifaceted geologic and oceanographic history that has influenced and shaped patterns of marine invertebrate diversity. This evolutionary history consists of major events on a wide range of time scales such as the formation of the Antarctic Polar Front (25-41 million years ago) to repeated glacial cycles during the past million years. These factors variably influenced genetic connectivity of fauna to produce a highly unique, but incredibly diverse marine community. Use of molecular phylogeographic methods is creating the need to revise our understanding of Antarctic patterns of biodiversity. In particular, almost every phylogeographic study carried out to date, suggests that the biodiversity of Antarctic marine shelf fauna is considerably underestimated. In discovering this diversity, some lineages (i.e., cryptic lineages) show no diagnostic morphological differences whereas others (i.e., unrecognized species) show differences that were unknown to science. The sea star genus Odontaster is among the best-studied of Antarctic invertebrate groups. Nonetheless, two unrecognized lineages were recently discovered along the Antarctic Peninsula, which is one of the best-studied regions in Antarctica. Herein, we elucidate the molecular and morphological uniqueness of these species and name them O. roseus and O. pearsei. The latter is in honor of John Pearse, an Antarctic biologist, as well as past President and long-time member of the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antarctic Regions
  • Base Sequence
  • Biodiversity
  • Ecosystem
  • Electron Transport Complex IV / genetics
  • Genes, Mitochondrial
  • Genetic Variation
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Starfish / anatomy & histology*
  • Starfish / classification*
  • Starfish / genetics


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • Electron Transport Complex IV

Associated data

  • GENBANK/GQ294347
  • GENBANK/GQ294357
  • GENBANK/GQ294358
  • GENBANK/GQ294359
  • GENBANK/GQ294372
  • GENBANK/GQ294383
  • GENBANK/GQ294389
  • GENBANK/GQ294390
  • GENBANK/GQ294411
  • GENBANK/GQ294412
  • GENBANK/GQ294413
  • GENBANK/GQ294414
  • GENBANK/GQ294415
  • GENBANK/GQ294423
  • GENBANK/GQ294426
  • GENBANK/GQ294439