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Megan A. Sporre

PhD Candidate, Marine Biology

Texas A&M University at Galveston, Department of Marine Biology

200 Seawolf Parkway Galveston, TX 77554

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My research involves studying the biodiversity, connectivity, evolution and comparative genomics of cryptobenthic reef fishes, such as blennies, gobies and cardinal fish. I am particularly interested in studying cryptic species and the drivers of speciation and adaptation within these tiny reef fishes. I use next generation sequencing techniques and phylogenomics to uncover the answers to these questions. Additionally, a portion of my research is focused on the husbandry and breeding of blennies captured along the Gulf of Mexico. While attending the College of Charleston for my Master's degree, my research focused on using molecular markers to determine the incidence of multiple paternity in diamondback terrapins.

Outside of my research, I am incredibly passionate about advocating for graduate students and women in science. I am currently the president of the Galveston Graduate Student Association, where my main goal is to help graduate students connect with faculty, the public, and the greater scientific community. Previously, I was the president and a founding member of the Charleston Chapter of Graduate Women in Science (GWIS). In my spare time I enjoy going to the beach with my two dogs, measuring the growth of my various houseplants, and DIYing home decor that I could never afford on a graduate student budget.

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Latest Publications

Phylogenetic review of the comb-tooth blenny genus Hypleurochilus in the northwest Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. 2023. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 189: 107933

As some of the smallest vertebrates, yet largest producers of consumed reef biomass, cryptobenthic reef fishes serve a disproportionate role in reef ecosystems and are one of the most poorly understood groups of fish.  The interrelationships of the comb-tooth blenny genus Hypleurochilus remain understudied.  Relationships for ten Hypleurochilus species are resolved using multi-locus nu- clear and mtDNA sequence data, morphological data, and mined COI barcode data. Mitochondrial and nuclear sequence data from 61 individuals collected from the western Atlantic and northern Gulf of Mexico (N. GoM) delimit seven species into a temperate clade, a tropical clade, and a third distinct lineage. This lineage, herein referred to as H. cf. aequipinnis, may represent a species of Hypleurochilus whose range has expanded into the N. GoM. Inclusion of publicly available COI sequence for an additional three species provides further phylogenetic resolution. H. bananensis forms a new eastern Atlantic clade with H. cf. aequipinnis, providing further evidence for a western Atlantic range expansion. Single marker COI delimitation was unable to elucidate the relationships between H. springeri/H. pseudoaequipinnis and between H. multifilis/H. caudovittatus due to incomplete lineage sorting. Mitochondrial data are also unable to accurately resolve the placement of H. bermudensis. However, a comprehensive approach using multi-locus phylogenetic and species delimitation methods was able to resolve these relationships. While mining publicly available sequence data allowed for the inclusion of an increased number of species in the analysis and a more comprehensive phylogeny, it was not without drawbacks, as a handful of sequences are potentially mis-identified. Overall, we find that the recent divergence of some species within this genus and potential introgression events confound the results of single locus delimitation methods, yet a combination of single and multi-locus analyses has allowed for insights into the biogeography of this genus and uncovered a potential transatlantic range expansion.

The complete mitogenomes of the spinyhead blenny, Acanthemblemaria spinosa (Chaenopsidae) and the lofty triplefin, Enneanectes altivelis (Tripterygiidae)

2022. Mitochondrial DNA Part B, 7 (2):353-355.

The blennies, Acanthemblemaria spinosa and Enneanectes altivelis, are representative members of the Chaenopsidae and Tripterygiidae respectively,  with these two families spanning the deepest node of the Blennioidei tree. The mitogenomes of both species consisted of 37 genes and one control loop region in 16,507 bp for A. spinosa and in 16,529 bp for E. altivelis. Phylogenetic analysis confirmed the placement of Chaenopsidae and Tripterygiidae within the Blenniiformes, however there was instability in the placement of the triplefins between reconstruction methods, most likely due to low taxon sampling. These mitogenomes represent an important milestone in uncovering the relationships within the Blenniiformes and Ovalentaria.

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Megan Sporre

Eytan Marine Genetics & Biodiversity Lab 

Texas A&M University at Galveston, Department of Marine Biology

200 Seawolf Parkway Galveston, TX 77554

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