Rich Mooi

  • Curator
  • Invertebrate Zoology and Geology
  • PhD

When I was about 8 years old, I sat at the kitchen table and used a blue ballpoint pen to draw the "blueprints" for the research vessel I would be using when I became a marine biologist. Things don't always go the way you plan--even when you start early. But I can say that my life as a field biologist and phylogeneticist of marine organisms has never wavered from the exciting endeavor represented by those childhood sketches. My parents introduced me to the wonders of the natural world, and I discovered very soon that there was nothing I would like to do more than devote my life to uncovering, drawing, and writing about those wonders.

But it was not until my second year at the University of Toronto that I came up against what are arguably some of the most enigmatic of marine organisms: the echinoderms. This group, which includes the sea urchins, sea stars, brittlestars, sea cucumbers, and sea lilies, displays some of the most bizarre morphologies of any marine organism. The origins of certain peculiar evolutionary novelties are poorly known, and the echinoderms are a perfect laboratory in which to study the far-reaching effects of some of these, especially small changes in rates of development. In particular, I was drawn to the aesthetically and scientifically pleasing sand dollars. Under the tutelage of Malcolm Telford, who taught me that there were no satisfying answers to poorly formulated questions, and Rick Winterbottom, who taught me that the best questions were about the relationships of organisms, I discovered my calling as a phylogenetic systematist.

Using phylogenetics as a tool, I have studied everything from abyssal sea urchins to linguistics. My most satisfying systematic works still deal with the sand dollars, which continue to lay the ground work for my ideas on the relationship between development and phylogeny. Recently, with colleagues in France, I have begun work on skeletal systems of all echinoderm groups, both fossil and extant. This theory of skeletal homologies provides keys to determining how these strange animals evolved. In the same way that knowing homologies in vertebrate skeletons has helped us to understand their evolution, our hope is that this theory of echinoderm homologies should be helpful in explaining the origins of even the most bizarre echinoderm groups.

B.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D., University of Toronto, Canada (1981, 1983, 1987). Lecturer, University of Toronto (1985-1986). Postdoctoral Fellow, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution (1988-1990). Research Associate, Royal Ontario Museum, (1990-). Assistant Curator, California Academy of Sciences (1990-1995). Associate Curator, California Academy of Sciences (1995-2000). Curator, California Academy of Sciences (2000- ). Fellow: California Academy of Sciences, Willi Hennig Society. Member: Society of Systematic Biology, Paleontological Society, Society for Sedimentary Geology, American Association for the Advancement of Science. Advisory Board: Smithsonian Series in Comparative Evolutionary Biology. Symposia (Organizer): Phylogenetics and Heterochrony, Willi Hennig Society (1991). Symposia (Invited Speaker): Applications of Phylogenetic Analysis, Willi Hennig Society (1991), Evolution of Echinoderms, International Echinoderm Conference (1993), Keynote address on Echinoderm Functional Design, 4th European Echinoderms Colloquium (1995), Metazoan Evolution: Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (1998), Starfish Evolution: Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (1999), Developmental Paleobiology, Geological Society of America (1999), Conference Organizer: 9th International Echinoderm Conference, San Francisco (1996).

Mooi, R. 1989. Living and fossil genera of the Clypeasteroida (Echinoidea: Echinodermata): An illustrated key and annotated checklist. Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology 488:1-51.

Mooi, R. 1990. A new "living fossil" echinoid (Echinodermata) and the ecology and paleobiology of Caribbean cassiduloids. Bulletin of Marine Science 46:688-700.

Mooi, R. 1990. Paedomorphosis, Aristotle's lantern, and the origin of the sand dollars (Echinodermata: Clypeasteroida). Paleobiology 16(1):25-48.

Mooi, R., and B. David. 1993. Ontogeny and origin of the brooding system in Antarctic urechinid sea urchins (Holasteroida). Zoomorphology 113:69-78.

Mooi, R., B. David, and D. Marchand. 1994. Echinoderm skeletal homologies: Classical morphology meets modern phylogenetics. Pages 87-95 in Echinoderms Through Time (Echinoderms Dijon), B. David, et al. (eds), Balkema, Rotterdam.

Mooi, R., and C.P. Chen. 1995. Weight belts, diverticula, and the phylogeny of the sand dollars (Clypeasteroida: Echinoidea). Bulletin of Marine Science 57:186-195.

Mooi, R. and B. David. 1997. Skeletal homologies of echinoderms. The Paleontological Society Papers, 3:305-335.

Mooi, R., and B. David. 1998. Evolution within a bizarre phylum: Homologies of the first echinoderms. American Zoologist, 38:965-974.

David, B., and R. Mooi. 1999. Comprendre les échinodermes : la contribution du modèle extraxial-axial [English title: Contributions of the extraxial-axial theory to understanding the echinoderms]. Bulletin de la Société Géologique de France, 170(1):91-101.

Harvey, A., R. Mooi, and T. Gosliner. 1999. Phylogenetic taxonomy and the invalidity of Allonautilus Ward and Saunders, 1997. Journal of Paleontology, 73(6):1214-1217.

Mooi, R., S. Martínez, and S.G. Parma. 2000. Phylogenetic systematics of Tertiary monophorasterid sand dollars (Clypeasteroida: Echinoidea) from South America. Journal of Paleontology, 74(2):263-281.

Mooi, R., and D. Peterson. 2000. A new species of Leodia (Clypeasteroida: Echinoidea) from the Neogene of Venezuela and its importance in the phylogeny of mellitid sand dollars. Journal of Paleontology, 74(6):1083-1092.

Mooi, R., and B. David. 2000. What a new model of skeletal homologies tells us about asteroid evolution. American Zoologist, 40:326-339.

Mooi, R. 2000. Not all written in stone: Interdisciplinary syntheses in echinoderm paleontology. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 79:1209-1231.

Mooi, R., H. Constable, S. Lockhart, and J.S. Pearse. 2004. Echinothurioid phylogeny and the phylogenetic significance of Kamptosoma (Echinoidea: Echinodermata). Deep-Sea Research II, 51(2004):1903-1919.

Summer Systematics Institute

 

The Summer Systematics Institute and the Biological Illustration Internships will be offered June 16 to August 8, 2014.  The application period for this term is now open.  Deadline to apply is February 21st 2014.

 

Learn more