People and ecosystems

Understanding of the links between coral reef ecosystems, the goods and services they provide to people, and the wellbeing of human societies.


Ecosystem dynamics: past, present and future

Examining the multi-scale dynamics of reefs, from population dynamics to macroevolution


Responding to a changing world

Advancing the fundamental understanding of the key processes underpinning reef resilience.

Coral Bleaching

Coral Bleaching

Coral Reef Studies

From 2005 to 2022, the main node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies was headquartered at James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland (Australia)

Menu Image Menu Image Menu Image Menu Image Menu Image Menu Image Menu Image

Phylogenetics, ancestral biogeography, biodiversity, endemism and provinciality of coral reef fishes


Thursday, February 23rd, 2017 - 16:00 to 17:00 hrs

Building 19, Room 106, JCU Townsville Campus
Peter Cowman
Peter Cowman

Abstract. Molecular phylogenetics has become the fundamental tool to study the systematics and evolution of groups of organisms. Phylogenetic trees also provide a framework to examine how ecological processes play out on evolutionary time scales. Combined with fossil data, time calibrated phylogenies (chronograms) can provide a window into the past, allowing us to explore the evolutionary origins of lineages, the traits they possess, and their ancestral biogeographic affinities. In this talk, I will highlight how I have used phylogenetic trees for several families of reef associated fishes to explore their origins and diversification on coral reefs, in particular how they have come to form a major component of the Indo-Australian Archipelago (IAA) biodiversity hotspot. Currently, the most conspicuous families of reef fishes are not represented by complete molecular phylogenetic hypotheses. The same is true for reef building corals. On the eve of a genomic revolution in phylogenetics, what is the path forward to reach the goal of completely sampled phylogenetic trees for important groups of reef fishes and corals?

Biography. Peter (original from Ireland) completed his PhD at James Cook University in 2012 during which he explored the evolution and biogeography of coral reef fishes. From 2012-2014 he was a Postdoctoral fellow in the Macroevolution and Macroecology group at the Australian National University in Canberra, where he investigated the genetic links between molecular evolution, life history and diversification in plants and animals. In 2014, he was awarded the Donnelley Environmental Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies (YIBS). He returned to JCU in 2016 and joined the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies as a Research Fellow under the Centre Program 2: Ecosystem dynamics: past, present and future. He continues to leverage phylogenetic data for fishes and corals to explore their evolutionary history. In 2017, he was awarded an ARC DECRA to generate new phylogenomic datasets for some of the most diverse families of reef associated fishes (Labridae) and corals (Acroporidae) to explore patterns of biodiversity, biogeography and molecular evolution on coral reefs.


Australian Research Council Pandora

Partner Research Institutions

Partner Partner Partner Partner
Coral Reef Studies