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The Invertebrate Collections is one of the University Museum’s large collections of scientific zoological material. “Invertebrates” is a traditional grouping for animals without a backbone. At our museum, like in many other scientific collections, invertebrates is the remaining part of the animal kingdom when vertebrates, insects, spiders and millipedes (entomology) have been accounted for. Invertebrates therefore is a diverse group of very different animals with often spectacular ways of life in many types of environments. We still know very little about many species of invertebrates because they are difficult to study and identify. Many species are also still undiscovered. Scientific collections are fundamental sources of knowledge about our zoological diversity. On these pages we want to inform about the contents of the collections and about past and current activities.

If you are interested in doing your master degree in marine biodiversity or adjacent topics at the University Museum of Bergen, we have a blog with currently available thesis topics in marine biodiversity which can be found here.

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Minute snails in Northern Norway

From 21 till 28th of May, researchers, technicians, and students of the University Museum’s marine section, travelled up North to Torsvåg, close to Tromsø, for joint fieldwork. The participants represented several Artsdatabanken projects that cover marine fungi, hydrozoans, polychaetes, parasites of jellyfish, comb jellies and chaetognaths, bryozoans, marine amphipods and finally the Lower Heterobranchia and Pyramidellidae gastropods. In this blog you can read about the general experience of the fieldwork and more details about the different projects. And here you can read about the fieldwork through the eyes of two master students who joined. And if you want to read more adventures and see more pictures check out this blog post! It was a large group of young and more experienced scientists which created the perfect opportunity for a lot of knowledge transfer.

This was also the first “big” fieldwork trip for the Lower Heterobranchia and Pyramidellidae project, after several sampling events in the Bergen area, which you can read here. Both Lower Heterobranchia and Pyramidellidae include small snails, just a few millimetres in length that are hard to identify (they can resemble other small species of gastropods). The diversity of these tiny sea snails is poorly understood in Norway, and thus, during this project these sea snails will be studied by combining DNA barcoding and shell characters. Sampling will be based on the use of dredges, grabs, and snorkelling.

Pyramidellidae are regarded as ectoparasites and are often found living on other molluscs or other marine invertebrates, but also free in soft sediments. The Lower Heterobranchia are often found on algae, for example on the stipes and in between the holdfasts of large kelp. Because of the small size of these snails the best way to collect them is by sampling the substrate they live on. So, this is what we did, we went snorkelling several times in the cold waters of Northern Norway, but thanks to good neoprene layers we were able to keep warm and simultaneously looking like seals!

Underwater shot of a person snorkelling, collecting algae just below the surface

Collecting the right substrates for the Lower Heterobranchs and Pyramidellidae while snorkeling. Photo by Eva Charlotte Samson, UiB

Little lab set-up in the kitchen to sort through the samples.

Little lab set-up in the kitchen to sort through the samples. Photo by Cessa Rauch, UiB.

 

It was challenging to find our snails; there was plenty of kelp and high diversity of many other taxonomic groups, but the conditions were not exactly right especially for the pyramidellids that seem to prefer areas with strong currents.

So, even though we sampled many different habitats, we often ended up not finding our snails when back in the lab sorting under the microscope.

 

 

 

A tiny snail lookin up at the camera

Species of Pyramidellidae; Odostomia turrita. Photo by Cessa Rauch, UiB.

 

Yet, after collecting a ton of material and spending many hours sorting, we finally found one pyramidellid!

In this case Odostomia turrita.

Odostomia are neat little pyramidellids that have glands with distinct colours, which makes somewhat easier the identification of species.

Drawings showing the colour patterns of snails

The different colour patterns distinguish different Odostomia species. Source from Høisæter 2014. (Høisæter, T. (2014). The Pyramidellidae (Gastropoda, Heterobranchia) of Norway and adjacent waters. A taxonomic review).

Although minute, the lower heterobranch were “easier” to find… They seem to be less picky with the environment, and on kelp and sand we managed to sample a few different species, amongst others two very similar ones: Ammonicera rota and Omalogyra atomus. In addition, we found in the sand and gravel small snails of the genus RissoellaR. globularis.

Field season has just started, this was a good beginning for a busy Summer with many more blogs to come!

-Cessa & Manuel

NOAH goes North again!

A couple of weeks ago, a team of five jellyfish and polyp enthusiasts travelled to Torsvåg, Vannøya, a beautiful location two hours north of Tromsø by car (more about the fieldwork can be found here). Our goal? Collect, identify and catalogue some little-known hydrozoans for Artsdatabanken project NOAH (Norwegian Arctic Hydrozoa). This is the 3rd dedicated NOAH trip to obtain Arctic samples (or examine collections) in the last 12 months! After a very successful Arctic expedition to the West and North of Svalbard on board Kronprins Haakon in the context of the Barents Sea Ecosystem Survey by IMR, and a 1-week workshop at the Institute of Oceanology Polish Academy of Sciences (IOPAN) co-organized by our colleague Marta Ronowicz, this time we focused on the underexplored coasts of northern Norway.

A collage of reserch related photos; people working in lab, a reserach vessel

Recent NOAH-related sampling trips. On top, Barents Sea Ecosystem Survey by IMR on board icebreaker Kronprins Haakon; in the middle, at IOPAN examining Marta Ronowicz’s extensive collection; bottom, NOAH team in Torsvåg (Troms). Pics: Joan Soto, Piotr Bałazy, Robert Johansen

Cruises, especially on cutting-edge icebreakers crashing ice on their way to the poles, are a lot of fun, but getting deep-water samples of both jellyfish and polyps is all but easy. Consequently, even when we carefully optimize the sampling procedures, some fragile species often arrive damaged or in bad shape. This time, we collected shallow-water specimens using our own hands. In addition to (MANUAL!) net deployments at ca. 180 m depth, we intensively checked marinas, tide pools, and shallow infralittoral environments by snorkeling. It worked fantastically well for those picky jellies and polyps which tentacles/polyps get lost after being trawled or towed with a tone of hard-bodied invertebrates and slimy fish within massive nets. We took the opportunity to document them in detail using both microscopes and macro photography. During our trip, we had the visit of Stine and Linda from Artsdatabanken. They even kindly gave us a hand collecting jellyfish from the piers! Good catch!

A photo collage of scientists at work, and a reindeer (presumably also at work)

Wide array of sampling methods, landscapes and local fauna, including a brand new wet lab (before: living room) specially made for the occasion. Stine and Linda testing our hand nets and successfully collecting some jellies. Pics: Joan Soto, Praveen Raj.

Each of us had our favorite species and top findings for the trip, and we were really excited to see alive and in good shape those species we have only examined within preserved collections, or only read about in scientific publications. These findings will definitely contribute to a better knowledge on the true diversity and distribution of these little known species, some of which have rarely been reported that far north in continental Norway.

I (Joan) stop here and leave you with some insights from the other NOAH team members that joined the trip: Marta and Praveen.

From Marta:
This was such a very interesting experience! During my work I usually study deep ecosystems, so I do not often see fresh samples of benthic hydroids, and when I do, they are often damaged by the sampling gear (e.g. bottom trawl, beam trawl…). This trip to Torsvåg has allowed me to sample the intertidal pools and marinas with my own hands, discover the great diversity that exists just below the surface, and to see multiple species in a way I never seen before.

For me, the most interesting species were undoubtedly the athecate hydroids, such as the incredibly beautiful Zanclea spp. and Sarsia spp. These animals are extremely fragile due to the lack of a theca to protect the polyp. In Torsvåg, I saw athecate hydroids of extraordinary quality, studied their sexual structures, their morphology, colours, behaviour…  Simply: WOW!!! I’m very much looking forward to the next NOAH trip!

Collage of microsope images of hydrids (looks like sticky flowers), happy people in lab and out in the field

During our sampling trip, Marta Gil (visiting researcher) showed a lot of excitement about the diversity in the intertidal pools and collected beautiful athecate polyps, all with reproductive structures! Pics: Joan Soto.

From Praveen:
My first sampling trip after joining the Cnidaria and Ctenophora Team as a PhD student was nothing short of exhilarating. Our team, led by Joan Soto, was focused on various life stages and projects related to the phyla Cnidaria and Ctenophora. Although I had conducted similar sampling procedures in India, working with live specimens of both planktonic and benthic stages of Cnidarians in Torsvåg was a new and fascinating experience.

One of the trip’s most challenging parts was venturing into open waters with a small fishing boat to collect samples. We had to troubleshoot a bit on board, but it finally turned out to be a success. Despite not finding Dimophyes arctica, one of the target species for my PhD, I was captivated by the immense diversity of hydroids in the piers near the island, some of which might be the so-far unknown polyp stage of some known Norwegian hydromedusae. Special thanks to Luis and Marta, who taught me a lot about hydrozoan taxonomy, and Cessa and Jon for driving the boat and patiently wait for the net to be recovered.

The research was undoubtedly the focus, but the social activities and adventures we shared were equally memorable. Torsvåg itself was mesmerizing, with its high mountains and breathtaking views. We all enjoyed evening hikes and took advantage of the midnight sun, which provided a perfect balance to our intense sampling schedule. Our group dinners were another highlight of the trip for me: with colleagues from 7 different nationalities and 3 continents, we had a delightful variety of cuisines as we took turns for preparing dinner.

All in all, this sampling trip was an incredible blend of scientific discovery and personal enrichment. The stunning landscape and the camaraderie of our team made it an unforgettable experience.

A collage of images, three showing happy poeple out in northern Norwegian nature, and five of different jellyfish photographed against a black baground

Praveen Raj on his first sampling trip for his PhD. He not only captured and identified an impressive amount of jellyfish, but also had a great time hiking around Torsvåg and enjoyed the dramatic landscapes that Northern Norway can offer. Pics: Joan Soto, Praveen Raj, Lea Dober.

From Joan, Marta and Praveen.

Torsvåg through the eyes of two of our MSc students

“Ooh ooh ooh! I found a parasite! Bonita!”
– A phrase not usually heard in the fishing harbor of Torsvåg! But this week was far from the usual fishing business.

Lea (left) and Eva (right) out sampling on the boat. Photos: Eva Samson & Nataliya Budaeva

Heisann!
We are Eva and Lea, and we’re marine biology students in the second semester of our masters degree.

Since we’re writing our master’s theses at the University Museum, we got to be a part of the fieldwork in Torsvåg (Troms) in the last week of May.

Welcome to our first sampling trip with the researchers from the University Museum of Bergen and the University of Tromsø!

 

scenic shot of a small island connected by a bridge to the bigger island

Torsvåg seen from one of the (smaller) mountains of Vannøya
(Photo: Lea Dober)

As the trip was a joint project by different groups that work on different phyla, we got opportunities to try a lot of different sampling methods.

Here is a couple of our favorites:

  • Chasing jellies from piers, à la Pokemon “gotta catch them all”
  • Freediving in the 4°C-cold but crystal-clear water
  • Setting sail to deeper waters, sampling at depths up to 50 m with a grab and 180 m with a plankton net with pure biceps-power (Kudos to all strong men and women)
    collage of images where various people dressed in rain gear operates a grab and a net on a boat

    Haul away! Sampling from a boat that – unlike our research vessels – does not have a winch, meant a good workout! Here’s Eva, Tom and Jon working the grab, and Praveen and Joan with the plankton net. Photos: Eva Samson, Katrine Kongshavn

    A bucket full of joy and jellies! (Photo: Lea Dober)

Following the sampling we also spent quite some hours processing the samples and taking pictures in the lab. I (Eva) had my own little workspace where I usually helped with sorting the benthic samples, mostly focusing on annelids as I’m also working on these in my thesis. At the beginning of the week I was struggling to even find worms in between all the sandgrains. But luckily I had a lot of experts sitting in the same room and helping me! And little by little, I got more confident in identifying the common families of polychaetes.

Three people working with stereomicroscopes

Jon, Eva and Tom working in the improvised lab for benthos. Photo: Katrine Kongshavn

And I (Lea) worked in the gelatinous zooplankton lab, right next to the polychaete group. There, I helped with sorting zooplankton, checking the jellies for parasites, and taking pictures of the specimens. A great opportunity to get to know more about the fascinating diversity of jellies in Norway!

At the end of the long days, we usually fell right into bed and even the midnight sun couldn’t keep us from falling asleep within minutes!

our quite unusual home for a week – the Torsvåg lighthouse in the midnight sun! (Photo: Eva Samson)

Not only the life underwater had a lot to offer, but we were also astonished at the spectacular wildlife above the surface. Otters, reindeer, all sorts of arctic birds, you name it…

All in all an incredible week for us master students to learn all the field methods and work on living specimens – quite different from the fixed material in the Museum collection. And a great opportunity to get to know everybody from the marine invertebrate groups better!

Lea & Eva

Fieldwork at Torsvåg Lighthouse (Troms)

map of Norway with a marker indicating Torsvåg, a bit north of Tromsø

Torsvåg lighthouse. Graphic from norgeskart.no)

 

During the last week of May, eleven of us in “the marine group” went on fieldwork together, up far north.

Based in Torsvåg (see map), we’ve collected material for several species mapping projects supported by the Norwegian Taxonomy Initiative (Artsprosjektet).

 

group photo of th eparticipants - 11 scientists in outdoor clothing standing in front of the ocean

The UMB participants. From back left: Joan, Jon, Tom, Nataliya, Katrine, Cessa, Marta (guest of NOAH). Front from left: Lea, Luis, Eva and Praveen

The fieldwork originated from the collaboration between the projects “Norwegian Marine Fungi” (Teppo Rämä, UiT), “NOAH – Norwegian Arctic Hydrozoans” (Joan J. Soto-Àngel, UMB), and “Polychaetes in the Arctic” (ManDAriN) (Nataliya Budaeva, UMB).

Additionally, the projects “Lower Heterobranchia and Pyramidellidae of Norway,” “Parasites on Jellyfish, Comb Jellies, and Chetognaths” (ParaZoo), “Digitization of Norwegian Bryozoans” (NorDigBryo), and “Marine Amphipods: Diversity, Species Complex, and Molecular Studies” (MADAM) were represented (many of us participate in multiple projects), covering a wide range of organisms.

The light house, and some signs that you may have been invaded by marine biologists (photo: K. Kongshavn)

Weather-wise, the Bergen team had some doubts as we packed our car in nearly 30-degree heat while snow was falling up North. However, it turned out that good weather awaited us! By the time we settled into our accommodations, the spring-winter was over, the sun came out – and didn’t set! An advantage of being in the land of the midnight sun, for sure.

four images: two from plane window going from summer (bergen) to winter (tromsø), two screen shot of the weather reporting in media

From summer to winter – or? (photos: K. Kongshavn, screengrabs from yr.no and nrk.no)

The scenery was breathtaking!
Upon arriving at Torsvåg Lighthouse, Teppo treated us to pancakes and a strategy meeting. Before the evening was over, we had our first samples in the lab, collected at low tide near the lighthouse.

scenic shot of tidepool and snow covered mountains

Our first colleting of the trip was done in these tide pools. Photo: K. Kongshavn

From there, it was a flurry of activity: collecting from tide pools, docks, marinas, kelp forests, and boats. We had one day of suboptimal weather with too much wind for extensive outdoor work, but by then we certainly had enough material to keep us busy indoors.

a collage showing different gears and methods used for collecting samples

Sampling methods: Snorkelling, from boat, hand pick in the intertidal, using a (small!) grab, sieving and collecting from piers and marinas. Photos: K. Kongshavn

In total, there were 14 of us, spread across the lighthouse and two apartments.
The lab space was set up for fungi in the lighthouse, while the two apartments were home to “team cnidarians & ctenophores” and “team benthos” (polychaetes, snails, bryozoans, and amphipods). Sorting, identification, photography, and documentation took place, with samples migrating between labs as we discovered interesting finds.

a collage of different animals; a bristle worm, a tiny snail, an amphipod and a bryozoan colony

Some of our collected animals, a screenshot from the dealing of samples via WhatsApp, and a sample being sorted. Fotos: K. Kongshavn

We also had a nice visit from the Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre (Artsdatabanken), who joined us for fieldwork and lab activities. Stay tuned for a news article—we’ll share the link when it’s available.

A big thank you to everyone for their great attitudes, willingness to share knowledge, samples, and boat time, as well as for all the delicious food made and fun memories created!

Keep an eye out for posts from the different projects in the near future!

Katrine (on behalf of the travelers)

Project kick-off; Lower Heterobranchia and Pyramidellidae of Norway

Since September 2023, a new taxonomic project started at the University Museum studying the biodiversity of sea snails (with shell) and sea slugs (without (visible) shell) in Norwegian marine habitats. This project is in a way a follow up from the “Sea slugs of Southern Norway” project between 2018–2020, but this time with a focus on poorly studied habitats including seagrass meadows, maerl coralline algae beds and landlocked fjords (“polls”). The target groups of this project are tiny sea snails of just a few millimeters, which are part of a group called “Lower” Heterobranchia and Pyramidellidae (Image 1) that together with the former ophistobranchs (e.g. the sea lugs), and pulmonates (slugs and land snails) form the Heterobranchia, one of the main evolutionary lineages of the Gastropoda.

Snail shells on a black bacground

Image 1: Example of shells of a “Lower Heterobranchia” (A) and a Pyramidellidae species (B). Picture CRauch & MMalaquias.

The diversity of these tiny sea snails is poorly understood in Norway. Currently, nine families are known in the country: Acteonidae, Cimidae, Mathilidae, Murchiconellidae, Omalogyridae, Rissoellidae, Tjaernoeiidae, Xylodisculidae and Pyramidellidae (Høisæter 2014), but their small size and similar shells make it challenging to identify the species. During this project these sea snails will be studied in Norway for the first-time combining DNA barcoding and morphology. Sampling will be based on the use of dredges, grabs, and snorkeling by collecting the substrate they live on.

Pyramidellidae are ectoparasites and are often found living on other molluscs or other marine invertebrates, but also on soft sediments. The University Museum of Bergen has already a good collection of “Lower” Heterobranchia and Pyramidellidae from Norway, but a large part of this material is not suitable for DNA extraction due to the original fixation methods based on the use of formaldehyde. Therefore, after the first months of cataloguing the “old” collection and setting up protocols for DNA extraction, we finally set out in February to collect fresh material. We visited two different sites around Bergen to try out collecting specimens by snorkeling and test the efficiency of a recently acquired portable hand-dredge (Image 2).

A small metal dredge, rope and a buoy on a dock

Image 2: The hand dredge which was used for collecting specimens. Picture MMalaquias.

Our first fieldwork day took place at the Marine Biological Station of UiB at Espegrend. The field station is a convenient place as it features a fully equipped laboratory (Image 3), and just in front of the station there is a seagrass meadow dominated of Zostera marina. This eelgrass is often found in shallow and sheltered coastal areas between 0.5 m to 10 m depth on flat sandy bottoms. Seagrass meadows are diverse and productive and can harbor hundreds of associated species from many different groups of animals. One team member swam with the dredge over the seagrass meadow and dropped it about 30 m from the shoreline, while the other team member pulled it back by hand. In addition, substrates like algae, blue mussels, and ascidians were hand-picked by snorkeling.

A scientist in a lab, looking in a stereo microscope

Image 3: First fieldwork for the new project, with project leader Manuel Malaquias behind the stereomicroscope searching for sea snails and slugs at Espegrend Marine Biological Station. Picture CRauch.

These efforts yielded the first specimens, namely the “Lower” Heterobranch species Ammonicera rota (Image 4) and the sea slug Elysia viridis (Image 5).

During our second sampling event, because of bad weather conditions with strong southern winds, we decided to visit a sheltered popular swimming area (although at this time of the year not so popular!) located north of Bergen called Helleneset (Image 6). Helleneset is a rocky shore area rich in algae and kelp with sand flats in between.

Two people on a pier in wet weather

Image 6: Second fieldwork trip, at the popular swimming area called Helleneset, on a wet and cold February day deserted. In the picture Manuel Malaquias and Cessa Rauch. Picture CRauch & MMalaquias 

This time the algae and kelp mats collected by snorkeling in ziplock plastic bags did not yield much, but a close examination of the sand (with help of stereomicroscopes) collected again with the hand-dredge revealed the presence of many little gastropod snails. One of these little snails was our first Pyramidellidae; the identity is not yet completely confirmed, but it looks like Eulimella ventricosa (Image 7).

a small shelled gastropod on a black bacground

Image 7: A Pyramidellidae found from Helleneset, a possible Eulimella ventricosa. Picture MMalaquias.

These two first samplings days were a good test for how we best can collect these snails which are small and in general a little abundant. The dredge is easier to operate with two people working together; one to deploy it and the other to pull it back to shore. Sandy samples yield better results if left to rest for several hours and even days in trays or buckets because anoxic conditions begin to form, forcing the animals to crawl out of the sediment.

This is just the beginning, if you want to be part of the journey of the diversity of “Lower” Heterobranchia and Pyramidellidae in Norway, we will be regularly updating stories and findings on this channel, and our social media accounts @SeaslugsofNorway (both Instagram and Facebook), see you there!

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

References

Høisæter, T. 2014. The Pyramidellidae (Gastropoda, Heterobranchia) of Norway and adjacent waters. A taxonomic review. Fauna Norvegica, 34: 7-78.

One Ocean Week 2024

the banner for OOW seen outside the University museum

From April 13th to 19th 2024, the Ocean City of Bergen celebrated the ocean even more than usual(!) in a happening called One Ocean Week (OOW).

One Ocean Week held conferences, meetings, workshops and activities – aiming to pioneer a sustainable use of the ocean.

The marine group at the University Museum was a prolific participant during the event, here are some of our contributions!

 

 

Anne Helene was invited to give the opening talk at the reception in the Aula, placing the Museum and Bergen into the heart of the Norwegian ocean exploration beginning with “The Norwegian North-Atlantic Expedition 1876–78”.

researcher giving a presentation

Anne Helene giving the opening talk during the festivitas in the Aula at the University Museum. Photo: Jenny Smedmark

Screenshot from the documentary. Do follow the link -> to watch if you haven’t already! Photo: OceanX

 

Aino also made a guest apperance in the aula as the documentary about “Seeing jellyfish as they should be seen” made by the OceanX media team was shown.

 

 

Saturday brought a presentation at Skolten about the UiB/OceanX-expedition last August, where Joan and Anne Helene presented some of their exciting new findings together with Henrik and Øyvind from BIO – and even Mattie of OceanX participated, calling in from the OceanXplorer in Singapore!

Presentations of what we found during the OceanX/UiB cruise last summer, where we explored old locatlities in the Norwegian Sea, and visited some of our fjords using the world’s most advanced research vessel. Pictured are Anne Helene, Joan and Henrik – with their animals! Photos: Katrine Kongshavn

On Sunday the 14th most of us were at Festningskaien with a plethora of activities during the “Family Day”.

Our tent at the Family Day. Photo: Joan J- Soto-Angel

For our “Meet marine biologists from the University Museum” we brought with us five activities focusing on different areas of research that we do.

We had:

  • Sharks (see SharkReferences.com for more), with a shark tooth quiz, info about sharks in Norway, and the chance to see shark skin up close.
  • Bipolar animals (project Pole2Pole) where people could explore the distribution of animals that occur in one- or both- of the poles, and learn more about why that may be the case
  • Polychaetes (project MAnDAriN) with a quiz of trying to match images of colourful bristle worms to their common names
  • A task on Jellyfish parasites(!) (project ParaZoo) where you were to diagnose which parasite our unfortunate jellyfish suffered from, and finally
  • Moss animals (project NorDigBryo) where you could learn more about these animals, see them up close, and pick up a booklet with fun facts and some riddles to solve.

    Our activities. From top left: Jellyfish doctor, bipolar animals, guess the worm, sharks, and moss animals. Images: Joan J. Soto-Angel

    Two of the museum pedagogues used our tent as the base for their theatre-based activity “The ice is melting! It is for real!” – so we had penguins too!

    The penguins Piia and Pling in action. Photo: Odette Tetlie

    At the Natural History Museum, our researchers offered free talks on topics of their choice; one talk every day (Tues-Fri). The topics covered here were:

    Who eats whom? Marine worms with jaws – delicious and dangerous! (Nataliya)
    Jellyfish in Norway – mostly harmless or murderous monsters?
    (Aino)
    Sharks of Norway
    (Nico)
    Elusive biodiversity: a journey through the less known but most exquisite groups of marine animals (
    Manuel)

    a person pointing to a phylogenetic tree showing gastropods and how they are related

    Manuel during his presentation at the Natural History Museum. Photo: Cessa Rauch

    Nico also gave a talk at the scientific conference Ocean Outlook: the North Atlantic Ocean climate, deep sea and environment, on the topic “Bioluminescence in deep-sea sharks: evolution and functions.

It was a hectic, but fun week!

-Katrine on behalf of the marine group

How do you show something nearly invisible?

a magnifying glass lies on top of booklet with the heading Bryozoa

Katrine ran an activity on moss animals – Bryozoa – during the Family Day of OneOceanWeek in Bergen and part of our three-museum collaboration project NorDigBryo – Digitizing Norwegian Bryozoa.

The full text in English is out now on the NorDigBryo project blog, and the Norwegian version can be found here – check it out!

And make sure you are following our Moss animal adventures on Instagram: @NorDigBryo

A fantasy animal that looks like a cross between a snail and a nautikus covered in moss, with some bonus mushrooms on it, created with AI

Here is what an AI generated “moss animal” may look like – it not *quite* how they look in reality! Made with DallE.

Free seminars at the University Museum during OneOceanWeek

Make sure to check out the seminars that are happening this week (April 16th-19th)!

Researchers from the Department of Natural History give 30 minute lectures on selected topics in the marine realm each day at 14:00, read more about it here!

LINK: https://www.uib.no/en/universitymuseum/169739/welcome-one-ocean-seminars-university-museum

Topics, dates and times:

Who eats whom? Marine worms with jaws – delicious and dangerous! 16.04.2024 – 14.00–14.30

Jellyfish in Norway – mostly harmless or murderous monsters? 17.04.2024 – 14.00–14.30

Sharks of Norway 18.04.2024 – 14.00–15.00

Elusive biodiversity: a journey through the less known but most exquisite groups of marine animals 19.04.2024 – 14.00–14.30

Where: Natural History Museum (Forhandlingsrommet), at Muséplassen 3 (use the main entrance of the Museum).

Free entrance, pick up your ticket from the museum gift shop 15 minutes before start.

My internship at the University Museum of Bergen (Alina)

Hi, I am Alina Lösing, a bachelor’s student from Germany with the great opportunity to join the Cnidaria and Ctenophora team from the University Museum of Bergen for a 6 weeks Internship. This experience was not only a chance to further strengthen my passion in marine biology but also very helpful to gain valuable insight into research and museum operations.

During my time at the museum, I had the chance to join various projects of Joan J. Soto-Angel, including POLE2POLE (Horizon 2020, MSCA) on bipolarity, and Artsprosjektet NoAH (Artsdatabanken) on Norwegian Arctic Hydrozoa. I even had the honor to contribute a small part to it! I focused mostly on the polyp of Stegopoma plicatile, a supposedly widely distributed species present also in both Arctic and the Antarctic waters.

On black background branching animals looking a bit like corals

Figure 1: Living specimen of Stegopoma plicatile collected during the OceanX cruise at 240 m depth (Pictures: Joan J. Soto-Angel)

The first step was to take pictures of the different specimens that were sampled and categorized as Stegopoma plicatile. Further I took pictures of many other species of Arctic hydrozoan polyps and hydromedusae. I learned some useful tricks with the camera while photographing the different species of polyps and medusae.

Part of the project is developing a reliable workflow which allows for a morphological distinction between polyps belonging to potentially different species previously defined molecularly from different areas worldwide. Therefore, I spent a lot of time working with the microscope collecting data which can be crucial to refining the morphological differences between different species. I measured length and width of 380 nematocysts!

The author working in the lab; seen using a microscope with camera on top, and holding a DSLR camera

Figure 2: Taking pictures of the samples with the microscope and the camera (Pictures: Joan J. Soto-Angel)

Furthermore, I underwent training in tissue sampling, a crucial step in preparing the samples for DNA sequencing. It’s all about preventing tissue contamination! Moreover, I had the opportunity to visit the DNA Lab, where I received instruction in their specialized techniques for DNA extraction, PCR, and electrophoresis. Many thanks Cessa for your time and dedication!

The highlights of my internship were of course both sampling trips I got to attend on board the Research Vessel Hans Brattstrøm. On the ship I learned a lot about the specific sampling methods for these incredibly delicate invertebrates. Despite experiencing a bit of seasickness the first time, I assisted with net deployment, sorting the animals, and collecting water samples from different depths.

Wrok on board the reserach wesse (person holding a transparent cylinder with water) and a group photo of the participants

Figure 3: Collecting water samples from a CTD; The Team during a successful sampling day (Pictures: Luis Martell, Praveen Raj)

Apart from an amazing Jellyfish Team, Bergen has many more attractions to offer. I highly recommend packing your hiking boots for your next visit, as the surrounding mountains offer breathtaking scenery. And if you share my passion for the ocean, a visit to the Nordnes Sjøbad is a must. Here you can take a refreshing dip in the frosty ocean before warming up in the heated saltwater pool.

Scenic shots of nature in Bergen

Figure 4: Hike to Ulriken and Fløyen with a view of Bergen (Pictures: Alina Lösing)

 I would like to take a moment to acknowledge Joan’s invaluable contribution to my internship at the University Museum of Bergen. Joan’s dedication and extensive knowledge have made my experience truly unforgettable.

-Alina

Student visits – Ellisiv and Maria

A guest post from two of our MSc students (in this case co-supervised with NTNU) who were here on a research visit for three weeks in January 2024. 

We are Maria Buhaug Grankvist and Ellisiv Tomasgard Raftevold, and for the past three weeks we have been visiting the University Museum in Bergen to work on our master’s projects. It’s been a lot of fun, a lot of hard work and very useful, as the Bergen University Museum really is the place to be when you’re working with marine invertebrates.

Both our theses focus on marine invertebrates, but two different phyla. Maria is working with cyclostomatid Bryozoans, while Ellisiv looks at Polychaetes. We write our masters for the NTNU University Museum in Trondheim in collaboration with the University Museum in Bergen and the projects “Digitization of Norwegian Bryozoa” (NorDigBryo) and “Marine Annelid Diversity in Arctic Norway” (ManDAriN). Keep reading, and you will learn about our projects and what we recommend to do when visiting Bergen!

Ellisiv’s marine annelids:
I’m Ellisiv and in my master’s thesis, I study a marine Annelid or Polychaete genus called Flabelligera within the family Flabelligeridae. Flabelligerids are mostly benthic and can be found from the intertidal zone down to the deep sea. They like living in the sand or mud, or under rocks, and they can be quite small and have sediment camouflage or a completely transparent body and outer sheath and may therefore be quite hard to find. If you do find them they are quite cool to look at, and if they are transparent, you can see their internal organs and green circulatory system. Their most prominent character is the cephalic cage, which is a circle of bristles around their mouths forming a kind of cage. In the ecosystem, these animals have an important role in that they for example eat the marine snow that falls to the bottom of the oceans so that it can be recycled back into the food chain.

Flabelligera affinis, a species within this genus was until recently thought to be only one species and was thought to have a worldwide distribution. This, however, was shown not to be true when Salazar-Vallejo 2012 restricted F. affinis to arctic areas and reinstated F. vaginifera which was previously synonymized with F. affinis, and proved that it was at least two different species sorted into one. Also looking at the material we have in the museum collections and DNA samples it was suspected that there are multiple different species sorted into F. affinis.

This is the problem I am trying to solve in my master’s thesis, and to do this I need to study the specimens found in the museum collections that are sorted to F. affinis and look at their different morphological characters and sort them into groups. This is mostly what I have done in Bergen. However, these species are very similar, and sequencing their DNA to look at their relatedness is a very useful addition to the morphology. Hopefully, I can get a step closer to solving this taxonomic confusion in my master’s and we can get to know how many species are hiding within Flabelligera.

Maria and the bryozoans:
I’m Maria, and for my master thesis I’m recording the diversity of bryozoan species within the order Cyclostomatida in Norwegian waters (meaning off the coast of Norway, the arctic ocean and some nearby areas). In addition to creating a checklist of recorded species, I’m mapping out their geographic and bathymetric distribution. In short, I’m trying to provide an answer to the question: What species of Cyclostomatida do we have, and where do they live?

There are two main reasons for studying this particular phylum in my thesis. First, they are strongly understudied, and according to a report published by the Norwegian Taxonomy Initiative in 2021, our understanding of bryozoan distribution and ecology is weak and unsatisfactory, even with “essential knowledge gaps” in some areas.
The second reason explains why it’s an issue that we know so little about these animals: They are majorly important for many marine ecosystems! Nearly all bryozoans are colonial, so even though the zooids (term for an individual animal in a colony) is only 0,1 – 0,5 mm long, the colonies can be as much as half a meter tall or wide! Many of the colonies have intricate shapes supported by heavily calcified structural zooids, providing habitats for a wide range of other animals. In this way, the bryozoans promote biodiversity in much the same way corals do, but they are far less known and barely protected by law like their coral counterparts.

To protect these beautiful colonial creatures we first of all need to know them better. Mapping the actual diversity and distribution of Norwegian bryozoans is far too large a task for a two year master thesis, but my thesis will hopefully contribute to the final results of the NorDigBryo project.

DNA sequencing
For both our theses we use an integrative approach, combining the morphology (what we see/the physical traits of the animals) with genetic sequence data. DNA sequencing is one of the things we got to do in Bergen, and it was very interesting to see how this is done from start to finish. We got to extract the DNA, use PCR and specific primers to amplify the DNA string of interest and gel electrophoresis to test if the prior methods worked.

For the successful sequences, we got to try the Sanger sequencing method, and it is very exciting to get to use some of our own sequences in our theses.

When in Bergen:
You’d might think that when we finish long days at the university museum, looking at marine invertebrates from dusk till dawn, we would go and do something completely different when the weekend comes. You’d be wrong!
In our spare time in Bergen, we went to see the University Museum of Natural History and were there almost from when it opened until it closed because there were so many interesting exhibitions. There are so many beautiful creatures on the planet, many of them and the story of how they evolved, you can learn about at the museum. We of course especially loved the “deep sea-room” where we would sit for a long time while watching a cephalopod swimming around deep sea sulfur vents..soothing.


More about the projects:
Marine Annelid Diversity in Arctic Norway (ManDAriN) home page (UiB)
ManDAriN presented at Artsdatabanken

Digitization of Norwegian Bryozoa (NorDigBryo) home page (UiO)
NorDigBryo presented at Artsdatabanken
NorDigBryo is also on Instagram – give us a follow!

-Ellisiv & Maria

It was our pleasure hosting these two enthusiastic guests, and we wish them luck in the thesis work – stay tuned for updates! 

PS: Interested in a marine master thesis at the University Museum of Bergen? Check out the blog detailing potential projects, or get in touch with the staff listed!