Biogeography of Philippine marine snakes

Marine snakes offer an excellent system to examine speciation and evolutionary transitions among a various habitats. This young lineage of reptiles originated in a megadiverse region in Southeast Asia known as the Coral Triangle. Despite its unprecedented local species diversity, this global biodiversity hotspot’s epicentre, the Philippines, is likely the world’s most data deficient archipelago for modern scientific research and information for sea snakes.

My research project looks to generate important information on the biodiversity and evolutionary biology of Philippine marine snake species and seeks to work on the following:


Uncovering Philippine marine snake diversity

Most of the species records for the Philippines are inferred from and informed by dated literature. I look to conduct a Philippine biodiversity survey of marine snake species to update the existing records of this biodiversity hotspot. This will allow for possible enhancement in the resolution of this group’s phylogeny and the potential discovery of undescribed species.


Elucidating Philippine biogeographic regions for marine snakes

The ecological associations of marine snakes with coral reefs and fisheries may influence the distribution of their species populations. Here, I seek to understand if the archipelagic nature of the Philippines plays a role in the formation of biogeographic regions for these marine snakes. I also look to conduct seascape genomics studies to describe how the archipelagic configuration and anthropogenic features influence species connectivity.


Understanding the curious case of the Lake Taal Sea Snake

The Philippines is home to the only freshwater ‘sea’ snake species, the Lake Taal Sea Snake (Hydrophis semperi). Here, I look to uncover the evolutionary history of H.semperiwhich led to its formation as its own species. I also seeks to understand its adaptations which allowed its persistence in a freshwater habitat.

Altogether, I hope to provide a substantial novel data stream which can be leveraged to allow a more holistic approach in the conservation and management of Philippine marine environments.