My Taxonomy footprint
To date, I have described 7 species, 5 genera and 1 family.
Discovering new species is one of the most exciting achievements in science. Taxonomy is not just fun; it is necessary. Species are going extinct at an alarming rate and by neglecting species descriptions and classification, we are missing out on relevant information to improve conservation strategies, ecosystem management, biotechnology, and our well-being.
Phylogeny, Biogeography and Macroevolution
I study the relationship among marine invertebrates, and estimate the timing of origin and diversification within major groups based on their fossil record. My research is interdisciplinary and intersects paleontology and zoology.
The cassiduloid tree
My research also touches on the processes that have affected species diversity and geographic distribution in the marine environment over millions of years. Preliminary analyses indicate that the cassiduloid echinoids originated in the Tethys Ocean and that numerous transoceanic dispersal events during the early Cenozoic (~ 66-45 Mya), some of these against circumglobal paleocurrents, helped them colonize tropical regions worldwide.
Biogeography of the family Eurhodiidae
Parallel evolution of oral structures in cassiduloids
I am also interested in the evolution of convergent body plans and life strategies. Echinoderms are characterized by their unique skeleton, formed by an intricate mesh of CaCO3. The overall skeleton architecture is also complex; instead of a rigid structure, it comprises numerous plates of varied shapes and sizes bound by soft tissue. Sea cucumbers, however, evolved a worm-shaped body with a fully internal skeleton composed of tiny ossicles and a ring of plates in the anterior region, the calcareous ring.
I use advanced imaging techniques such as scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and X-ray microcomputed tomography (micro-CT) to study the echinoderm skeleton and its relation to internal organs.
The evolution of the sea cucumber's calcareous ring
The animals I study
To date, I have described and revised several echinoderm species, including six new Brazilian species, and described the echinoderm aquarium trade in Bahia.
Cassiduloids are irregular echinoids (like sand dollars and heart urchins) that live mainly in shallow tropical waters. There are only about 35 living cassiduloids, but their fossil record is relatively rich. I study the cassiduloid anatomy, biodiversity, relationships, and the processes that have affected their evolution since their origin in the Cretaceous. More information here.
Sea cucumbers (holothuroids) are worm-like echinoderms, very closely related to the highly skeletonized sea urchins. In addition to revising and describing species, I am interested in the evolution of their reduced skeleton and specialized internal anatomy.