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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Department of Invertebrate Zoology

SEM of sclerites from various gorgonian octocoral species

Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) of individual sclerites from various gorgonian octocoral species

bar photo of Herman Wirshing

Herman WirshingSupport Scientist

  • Phone: 202-633-9086
  • Fax: 202-633-0182
  • E-mail:
  • Mailing Address:
    Smithsonian Institution
    PO Box 37012, MRC 163
    Washington, DC 20013-7012

  • Courier Delivery Address:
    Smithsonian Institution
    National Museum of Natural History
    10th and Constitution Ave, NW
    Washington, DC 20560-0163

    Responsibilities: Molecular genetic analyses of invertebrate taxa.

    Education: Ph.D., Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, 2012
    M.S., Nova Southeastern University, 2003
    B.S., Florida State University, 1998

    Research Interests:
    Phylogenetics, population connectivity, taxonomy, and ecology of the Octocorallia and Scleractinia.

    Recent Publications:

    Wirshing, H.H. and Baker, A.C. 2014. Molecular evolution of calcification genes in morphologically similar but phylogenetically unrelated scleractinian corals. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 77: 281-295.

    Wirshing, H.H., Feldheim, K.A., and Baker, A.C. 2013. Vectored dispersal of Symbiodinium by larvae of a Caribbean gorgonian octocoral. Molecular Ecology 22: 4413-4432.

    Bo, M, Baker, A.C, Gaino, E, Wirshing, H.H., Scoccia, F and Bavestrello, G (2011) First description of algal mutualistic endosymbiosis in a black coral (Anthozoa: Antipatharia). Marine Ecology Progressive Series 435: 1-11.

    Etnoyer, P.J., Wirshing, H.H. and Sánchez, J.A. (2010) Rapid assessment of octocoral diversity and habitat on Saba Bank, Netherlands Antilles. PLoS ONE 5, e10668.

    Wirshing, H.H. & Baker, A.C. (2008) Coral systematics inferred from the gene galaxin: Exploring phylogenetic relationships using a putative determinant of skeletal morphology. Proceedings of the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium.

    Smith, L.W., Wirshing, H.H., Baker, A.C., and Birkland, C. (2008) Environmental versus genetic influences on growth rates of the corals Pocillopora eydouxi and Porites lobata (Anthozoa: Scleractinia). Pacific Science 62(1): 57-69.

    Wirshing, H.H., Messing, C.G., Douady, C.J., Reed, J., Stanhope, M.J., and Shivji, M.S. (2005) Molecular evidence for multiple lineages in the gorgonian family Plexauridae (Anthozoa: Octocorallia). Marine Biology 142(2): 497-508.

    Sanchez, J.A. and Wirshing, H.H. (2005) A field key to the identification of tropical western Atlantic zooxanthellate octocorals (Octocorallia: Cnidaria). Caribbean Journal of Science 41(3): 508-522.

    Manuscripts in prep:

    Wirshing, H.H. and Baker, A.C. (in prep) Molecular and morphological species boundaries in the gorgonian octocoral genus Pterogorgia (Octocorallia: Alcyonacea: Gorgoniidae).

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