Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

James R. Garey, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Susan S. Bell, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Stephen A. Karl, Ph.D.


benthic, Tampa Bay, phylogeny, nematodes, 18S rRNA gene


A Molecular Approach to Assessing Meiofauna Diversity in Marine Sediments Heather C. Hamilton Abstract The purpose of this study was to determine if a molecular approach could be applied to calculating the diversity of meiofauna in marine sediments from two sites in Tampa Bay, FL, similar to the approach of McCaig et al, 1999 in calculating the diversity of microbes in pastureland soils. The approach includes extracting total DNA directly from the sediment and amplifying the 18S rRNA gene by PCR. Clone libraries from the 18S gene would be created for each site and 300 sequences from each clone library would be obtained. These sequences would then be phylogenetically analyzed and assigned to an OTU, from which diversity indices can be calculated.

The phylogenetic analysis of the sequences from the two sites revealed that of the 102 OTUs assigned from the sequences, only 7 OTUs included sequences from both sites, while 93 OTUs contained sequences from one site or from the other. Thus the sites were phylogenetically different from each other. Shannon diversity indices calculated for each site showed a difference between the two sites and paralleled diversity indices for macrofauna data for each site collected by the Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission. Sequences from 30 OTUs were completely sequenced and identified by phylogenetic comparison with a metazoan reference alignment. A discrepancy between the sequence data and data collected from preserved samples taken at each site was evident upon analysis: roughly 60% of each preserved sample consisted of nematodes and 10% consisted of copepods, while roughly 30% of the identified OTUs consisted of copepods and 10% consisted of nematodes. This discrepancy could be explained if the OTUs that were not identified consisted of nematode sequences or if a primer bias were present in the PCR amplification such that the regions flanking the primer site in the nematode sequences inhibited primer annealing.