W. Brian Simison

  • Assistant Curator & CCG Head
  • Center for Comparative Genomics

Antitropical Distributions

We are investigating the processes that lead to antitropical distributions (taxa found in both the northern and southern temperate regions, but not in the intervening tropical region). Many marine and terrestrial organisms are distributed above and below the tropics including limpets.







Seagrass Limpets

Seagrass limpets have an unusual distribution compared to the rest of the temperate northeast Pacific limpets; they are restricted to the southernmost region of the northeast Pacific temperate waters. This group of specialized limpets lives exclusively on the seagrasses Phylospadix and Zostera and they are the only cold water limpets that are members of the tropical New World clade of limpets. The last known tropical New World seagrass limpet has been extinct for 5 million years.



Extinct Limpet?

We are actively searching for natural populations of the very rare Mexican limpet (Scutellastra mexicana). This is the largest species of limpet ever known (180cm) and unfortunately, it has been collected to near extinction as a delicacy ingredient in ceviche. We hope to publicize the fate of this endangered animal and have it added to the CITES species database.




Mitochondrial Evolution

We are attempting to uncover the mechanisms of mitochondrial DNA strand bias, gene order variation and the associated consequences that these phenomenon have on phylogenetic analyses.


David R. Lindberg, UC Berkeley

James F. Parham, Field Museum

Jeffrey L. Boore, Genome Project Solutions & UC Berkeley

Douglas Eernissee, Cal State Fullerton

Healy Hamilton, California Academy of Sciences

Crissy Huffard, Conservation International, Indonesia

Norah Saarman, UC Santa Cruz



University of California, Berkeley, California, Ph.D. in Integrative Biology (2000).

University of California, San Diego, California, B.A. in Animal Physiology (1985).


Teaching Experience:  


Biology 862 (Current Topics in Evolution), SFSU (Spring 2009 & 2010)

Biology 11 (General Biology), UC Berkeley (Spring 2006).

Graduate Student Instructor -

IB 200 (Phylogenetics), UC Berkeley, Spring (1998).

Biology 1B (General Biology), UC Berkeley (1993- 1996).  

Graduate Student Mentor-

Molecular Phylogenetics Laboratory. UC Museum of Paleontology. (1995-2000).


Research Experience:


Curator and Head of Comparative Genomics, California Academy of Sciences. San Francisco, California.

Postdoctoral  Studies –

Visiting Postdoctoral Researcher, UC Berkeley and Joint Genome Institute, Walnut Creek, CA (June 2001-2005). Gastropod Mitochondrial Genome Project. Mitochondrial genome sequencing of exemplar taxa of the major clades of gastropods using long PCR, rolling circle amplification, and shotgun sequencing.

Post Doctoral Fellow, Australian Museum, Sydney Australia (2001). Investigation of the phylogenetic content of molecular morphology (2º and 3º structure of ribosomes).


Graduate Studies –

System Administrator, database development and implementation, Webdesign (HTML, Javascript, Perl, “HEITML”), UC Museum of Paleontology (1993-2000).
Graduate Student, UC Berkeley. DNA extraction, amplification, and sequencing of New World limpets. Investigation of phylogenetic methods for molecular data sets. Development of new methods for the analysis of phylogeography (1993-2000).
Research Assistant, Neurophysiology Department, UC Davis, California. Sodium channel participation in the gustatory response of rats (1985-1986).



Production Manager, HTI Bio-products, Ramona California, Optimization of specific polyclonal antibody production and optimization of antigen and antibody detection (1990-1992).
Immunochemist, Calbiochem, La Jolla, California, Polyclonal antibody production and purification (1987-1990).



Best Student Presentation, Molecular Phylogeography of the Eastern Pacific and Caribbean Patellogatsropoda, 65th Annual Meeting of the American Malacological Society Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. (4-9 July 1999).

UC Museum of Paleontology D.K. Palmer Prize (1999).



NSF - CSBR: Natural History Collections: Liquid Nitrogen Facilities for Biological Specimen Curation and Research at the California Academy of Sciences, $178,937. Simison,WB., Dumbacher, J. & Vindum, J. (2012).

UC Museum of Paleontology Graduate Student Research Awards, $5,000/year (1995, 1996, 1997, and 1998).

Integrative Biology Summer Research Award, $5,000(1997).

Hawaiian Malacological Society Scholarship Grant, $1,500 (July 1995).

Graduate Opportunity Fellow, University of California, Berkeley, $28,000 (1993-1995).

Peer Reviewed Publications:

James F Parham, Theodore J Papenfuss, Peter Paul van Dijk, Byron S Wilson, Cristian Marte, Lourdes R Schettino, W Brian Simison (2013). Genetic introgression and hybridization in Antillean freshwater turtles Trachemys revealed by coalescent analyses of mitochondrial and cloned nuclear markers. Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2013 Jan 23;67(1):176-187. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2013.01.004.


Dana Carrison-Stone, Robert Van Syoc, Gary Williams, W. Brian Simison (2013). Two new species of the gorgonian inhabiting barnacle, Conopea (Crustacea, Cirripedia, Thoracica), from the Gulf of Guinea. ZooKeys 270: 1–20, doi: 10.3897/zookeys.270.3736

Christine L. Huffard, Norah Saarman, Healy Hamilton, W.Brian. Simison (2010). The evolution of conspicuous facultative mimicry in octopus: an example of secondary adaptation? Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 101:68-77.


W.B. Simison and Boore, J. (2008). Molluscan evolutionary genomics. In Phylogeny and Evolution of the Mollusca. (W. F. Ponder & D. R. Lindberg, eds.), University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

W.B. Simison, Lindberg, D. R. and Boore, J. (2006). Rolling circle amplification of metazoan mitochondrial genomes. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 39:562-567.

W.B. Simison (2006). Patterns of endemism for nearshore gastropod molluscs:  A new view of the Gulf of California. Journal of Molluscan Studies, 72: 53-63.

Shi, H., J.F. Parham, W.B. Simison, J. Wang, S. Gong, and B. Fu. (2005). A report on the wild hybridization between two species of threatened Asian box turtles (Testudines: Cuora) on Hainan Island, China. Amphibia-Reptilia 26(3):377-381

Espoz, Carmen, Lindberg, D. R., Castilla, J. C., and Simison, W. B. (2004). Intertidal  limpets of Chile and Peru. Revista Chilena de Historia Natural. 77(2):257-283.

W.B. Simison, Lindberg, David R. (2003). On the identity of Lottia strigatella (Carpenter, 1864) (Patellogastropoda:Lottidae). The Veliger, 46:1-19.

W.B. Simison (2002). Plate Tectonics. Encyclopedia of Global Environmental Change. The Earth System: Physical & Chemical Dimensions of Global Environmental Change. 1:605-606.

J.F. Parham, W.B. Simison,  K.H. Kozak, C.R. Feldman (2001). New Chinese turtles: Endangered or invalid? A reassessment of two species using mitochondrial DNA, allozyme electrophoresis and known-locality specimens.  Animal Conservation, 4:357-457.

W.B. Simison, D.R. Lindberg (1999). Morphological and molecular resolution of a putative cryptic species complex: A case study of Notoacmea fascicularis (Menke, 1851) (Gastropoda: Patellogastropoda). Journal of Molluscan Studies, 65:99-109.


Peer Reviewed Abstracts:

Lipps, Jere H., Langer, M. R., Piller, W. B., Simison, W. B., Berbee, M., LoBuglio, and Taylor, J. (1992). Molecular phylogeny of foraminifera and radiolaria.  Eos 73 (supplement) p.319.

Langer, M. R., Lipps, Jere H., and Simison, W. B. (1992). Testing the molecular clock of evolution with planktic foraminifera. Eos 73 (supplement) p.273.



Simison, W. Brian and Lindberg, D.R. (2004) Gastropod mitochondrial genomes. World Congress of Malacology, Perth, Australia.

Simison, W. Brian. (2003). Phylogeography of New World Lottia. The Malacological Society of London. Limpets 2003, Evolution and Biology of Marine Limpets.

Lindberg, D.R., W. B. Simison and E. Begovic. (2001). Marine angiosperm patellogastropods from the Dominican Republic Neogene: a spatial-temporal waypoint between Eocene Europe and Recent North America.  PaleoBios: 21(2): 85.

Lindberg, D.R. and Simison, W. B. (2000). Measuring marine molluscan biodiversity: The confounding effects of currency, nomenclature, and tradition. The Malacological Society of Australasia Molluscs. p.57.

Lindberg, D.R., W. B. Simison and E. Begovic. (2000). Tracking a marine specialist in      geological time: Deciphering confounding patterns of migration, colonization and physiological change.  Program and Abstracts, American Malacological Society. p.74.

Lindberg, D.R. and W.B. Simison.  (2000).  Phylogeny and ecology of the "true" limpets: the Patellogastropoda.  Abstracts. 5th International Temperate Reef Symposium, Cape Town, South Africa: p.41.

Ford, P.J.; Simison, W. B., Feldman, C. R., Kozak, K. H. (2000).  Identifying the provenance of Chinese turtles: The importance of verified locality data for systematics and conservation. Proceedings of the 80th annual meeting of icthyologists and herpetologists. p.155.

Parham, James Ford; Kozak, Kenneth H., Simison, W. B., Feldman, C. R. (2001).  New species of turtles from China: Endangered species or infrequent hybrids. Proceedings of the fourth Asian herpetological conference. p.134.

Simison, W. Brian. (2000).  Evolution and Phylogeography of New World Gastropod Faunas. A dissertation submitted in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Integrative Biology,

Simison, W. Brian. (1999).  Molecular phylogeography of the eastern Pacific and Caribbean      Patellogatsropoda, 65th Annual Meeting The American Malacological Society, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. Program and Abstracts, p. 40.

Simison, W. Brian. (1996). Non-Cladistic use of molecular data: can molecular analyses resolve morphological ambiguities? American Malacological Union, Chicago.

Simison, W. Brian. (1996). Patterns of gastropod endemicity in the Gulf of California, 6th North American Paleontological Conference, Abstracts of Papers. Washington DC, p.359 (June 1996).


In Preparation:

Simison, W. Brian. New World phylogeography of the Patellogastropoda.

Simison, W. Brian, Lindberg, D. R. Gene order changes and elevated nucleotide
substitutions are correlated.

Simison, W. Brian, Begovic, E., Meyer, C. P. Kirkendale, L., Lindberg, D. R. A nearly
complete molecular phylogeny of Patellogastropoda.


  • W. Brian Simison
  • Assistant Curator & CCG Head
  • California Academy of Sciences
  • 55 Music Concourse Drive
  • San Francisco, CA 94118