Project Report

Gastropods, aka snails, have adapted to live in habitats ranging from the tops of mountains to some of the deepest depths of the ocean. One group of gastropods, the Lepetelloidea, has successfully colonized a high diversity of substrate types in the deep-sea including hydrothermal vents, cold seeps, sunken whale carcasses, sunken wood, algal holdfasts, elasmobranch egg cases, cephalopod beaks, sponges, seagrass rhizomes, and polychaete tubes. I am interested in the relationships between the lineages that inhabit each substrate, habitat shifts over evolutionary time, changes in the rate of lineage diversification, and how morphology has either promoted the invasion of a new habitat or changed to accommodate one. The gastropods in the Lepetelloidea are minute (0.5~10mm), so special techniques are needed to examine their morphology. These techniques are time consuming and require many hours of practice to become skillful at using them to gather data from the organisms of interest. For examining detailed external anatomy, three-dimensional structure, and radulae (gastropod teeth), Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) is the method that is preferred. For examining detailed internal anatomy, thin section histology is the preferred method, from which the sections can be stained and the various organ systems can be reconstructed. I focused on learning SEM and thin section histology methods during my stay at the University of Tokyo under Dr. Takenori Sasaki. I gained experience in several research skills that will be imperative for completing my dissertation research. I collected specimens by dredging the ocean bottom and collecting samples from the shore at the Misato Marine Biological Station on Sagami Bay. I will apply the skills I learned to lepetelloidean specimens at UC Berkeley and through them I will obtain the morphological data necessary to examine the evolutionary history of this group and how they have adapted to their respective environments. I enjoyed both the research and cultural experiences from living in Japan immensely. I was lucky to have many opportunities to experience the culture there including: a sumo tournament in Nagoya, the Gion Matsuri festival in Kyoto, the temples and sights of Kyoto, island life and SCUBA diving from Okinawa’s Zamami Island, and the daily dose of culture that comes from living in Tokyo and having the freedom to explore its varied districts. I documented and shared my research and cultural experiences with the public through my blog, "the eclectic limpet" (, which was also featured on the University of California Museum of Paleontology website. I also gave a seminar on my research and dissertation plan as part of the weekly University Museum seminar. I gave it during the second week of my stay and this facilitated my interactions with the faculty members and other students in the museum. My continued engagement in the weekly seminars and museum environment was a great opportunity to compare the museum community at the University of Tokyo to the one I am a part of in the University of California Museum of Paleontology. I also made connections with researchers in addition to my host that has already led to plans for collaborations. I anticipate a career-long research relationship with my host and the other scientists I met while in Japan. These collaborations will help to strengthen the bonds between American and Japanese research groups and help to share ideas and make scientific progress internationally.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Office of International and Integrative Activities (IIA)
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Carter Kimsey
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Judge Jenna L
United States
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