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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.

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Fieldwork for two projects

The projects HypCop (bottom-associated copepods) and Hardbunnsfauna (Invertebrate fauna of marine rocky shallow-water habitats) went on a day-trip to three localities last week.

We made the most of the sunny and calm weather to visit a very exposed site on Sotra, where we collected in the tide pools and on the barnacle-encrusted intertidal.

Afterwards, we went to two marinas, Glesvær and Hjellestad, on a quest for some specific species the projects were in need of.

Back in the lab we set to work documenting the colours of the animals by photographing them alive, as the colours tend to face in fixatives.

It was nice day in the field, and it looks like we found the species we were after!

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram as @PlanetCopepod and @Hardbunnsfauna

– Jon, Cessa & Katrine

 

HYPCOP workshop in Flødevigen

From the 7th to the 11th of March the HYPCOP team once more sat together to work on the identification of the species we have in the collection. The strategy was similar as we had in Bergen last year, but this time we looked focus into specific clades. Besides, we met in Flødevigen this time, instead of Bergen, and visited Tone Falkenhaug at her jobsite with the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research (IMR, Havforskningsinstituttet).

The HYPCOP team in Flødevigen, from ltr; Cessa Rauch (UiB), Jon Kongsrud (UiB), Anders Hobæk (NIWA) & project leader Tone Falkenhaug (IMR).

One way for identifying species of hyperbenthic copepods is by looking at their colors. Unfortunately, these get lost as soon as you fixate the samples in technical ethanol. Therefore, we started the workshop with a short sampling trip just out of the bay in front of the research station. We took a small boat from the research station that had a manual operated hinge on the back of the boat, so we could use that for pulling up the grab.

Preparing the small IMR boat with use of the manual hinge and the grab.

Anders Hobæk operating the grab

One of the advantages of working with tiny animals is that you sometimes only need small gear to collect them. The grab we used is hand size grab, not much bigger than a 10L basket.

However, as it is made entirely out of metal it is still heavy, which ensures it will be able to “grab” the mud from the bottom when it hits the sea floor.

Once we arrived at a nice location with the boat, we placed the grab over the edge of the boat and let it sink to the bottom which was about 40m deep.

Once the grab would touchdown it would close and engulf softbottom material including the animals that are associated with it. The closed grab would be town back with the manual hinge from the boat. Once onboard, we would empty the grabs content in a bucket and sieve some of the material. This material would go back to the lab for examination.

We carefully examined the sediment, and it was not yet very rich with benthos. We caught a few interesting copepods species, that we documented and fixated for identification.

One of the species we caught with the grab

March is not the best season for benthic copepod sampling, the water is still very cold from the winter and most of the small algae needs to grow back. Benthic copepods are much more abundant with rising temperatures and lots of algae growth. Back in the laboratory we started working on our museum collection copepods and assigned clades in our family tree that we would examine first.

Tone Folkenhaug (left) and Anders Hobæk (right) concentrated with dissecting copepods.

Bigger clades had more priority, and so we took those samples and checked the individual specimens. All the specimens we had in our collection are exoskeleton remnants from the DNA extraction (hence we could have a phylogenetic tree). The exoskeletons are still good for morphology identification but hard to see (due to there translucent nature). Therefore, to help with the identification we would often stain the exoskeletons either with lactophyl blue or lignin pink, which resulted in a visually pleasing collection of prepared slides of different colors.

Slides of Lactophyl and lignin pink stained copepods

Thanks to the workshop we now have manage to identify 145 out the 580 specimens; our efforts for identifying will continue and a new workshop is already planned, we meet again in June and in September, with also this time, help of international researchers!

Stay tuned with @planetcopepod!

-Cessa

Hydrozoa course 2022 edition – as told by our MSc student Ana González

Last month, our project NorHydro (together with ForBio Research School of Biosystematics and project MEDUSA) organized a course on diversity, systematics and biology of Hydrozoa at the Marine Biological Station in Espegrend. Fifteen participants from 9 different countries came all the way to Bergen to learn more about these intriguing animals, share their ideas and projects, and start new collaborations. We asked one of the youngest members of the group –our highly motivated student Ana González– to share with us her thoughts about the course and her experiences with her MSc project. This is what she had to say:

When I started my Master’s Degree of Marine Ecology at the University of the Balearic IslandsI already knew about the existence of hydrozoans, but I had no idea how interesting these animals actually were. After some discussions, a lot of reading, and a fair amount of looking at pictures of hydroids and hydromedusae, I decided to work with these inconspicuous invertebrates for my MSc project under the supervision of Dr Luis Martell (University Museum of Bergen) and Dr. Maria Capa (University of the Balearic Islands). My project aims to evaluate whether we can use the benthic communities of hydrozoans as bioindicators of anthropogenic impact on the easternmost coasts of Mallorca Island, in the Mediterranean Sea.

Me on a sampling day looking for benthic hydrozoans at the marine reserve of Cala Gat (top). A closer view of the hard substrates I sample in the marine reserve (bottom left). The common hydroid Monotheca obliqua growing on Posidonia oceanica (bottom right). Picture credits: Maria Capa and Ana González.

Coastal areas are an attractive place to live, and these habitats provide ecosystem services that contribute greatly to the economy of the world, but a bad management of them can generate important damages and drastic changes in the ecosystem. One way to monitor environmental impacts in these habitats is by observing the response of their biological communities, so for this project I decided to study the assemblages of benthic hydrozoans in two opposite sites with different levels of anthropogenic impact: a harbor and a marine reserve. Moreover, I am comparing the communities in different seasons of the year, and I will analyze the assemblages growing on hard substrates (like rocks) and also those growing on a very important Mediterranean soft substrate: the endemic seagrass Posidonia oceanica.

Some hydroids common in my study area are those belonging to genera Clytia (family Campanulariidae, left), Sertularella (family Sertularellidae, middle), and Aglaophenia (family Aglaopheniidae, right). Picture credits: Ana González.

At the beginning, working with benthic hydrozoans was very challenging for me since the specimens I find are easily overlooked if one is not searching carefully for them. But the more time I dedicate to observe these organisms, the more curious I became about their identity and dynamics, and the easier it was to recognize them in the samples. However, identifying hydrozoans is a difficult task and I realized early that I needed some help, so I was very happy when the opportunity arose to apply for the course “Diversity, Systematics and Biology of Hydrozoa” in Bergen. There, I had the chance to meet some of the leading scientific experts in the field that helped me understand better the taxonomy and ecology of these animals. I couldn’t have imagined how much I was going to learn during the different activities of the course, but at the end these organisms were able to catch my attention and time flew between lectures, sampling trips, and laboratory work. One aspect of the course that I particularly enjoyed is the fact that it brought together participants with different trajectories in science, and everybody was happy to share their experiences in the world of hydrozoan science.

We had all kinds of weather during the course: rain, sun, wind, and even snow! Picture credits: Lara Beckmann and Joan J Soto Àngel.

We had the chance to sample on board the UiB research vessel Hans Brattström and we collected several planktonic and benthic hydrozoans in the fjords around the Marine Station. After each sampling event, we went back to the lab to sort the samples, find the hydrozoans and identify them to species. The plankton samples were usually the first ones to be processed, since hydromedusae are quite fragile and they tend to suffer morphological damages after being sampled with a net. We tried to identify all specimens to species level, with the aid of the stereomicroscopes and scientific literature with identification keys that the curse provided. The benthic samples were placed in aquariums to keep the organisms alive and then each of us had the opportunity to observe the specimens in our own stereomicroscope.

A sampling day on board of RV Hans Brattström. Top left: deploying the plankton net. Top right: a full cod-end with plankton sample. Middle right: students and teachers ready to leave the pier. Bottom: benthos sampling with the triangular dredge. Picture credits: Lara Beckmann, Sabine Holst, Luis Martell

Top right and left: students and teachers at the laboratory, identifying hydrozoans. Bottom left: searching for hydromedusae and siphonophores in the plankton sample. Picture credits: Sabine Holst and Lara Beckmann.

All together, we were able to find and identify more than 40 species from all the main groups of hydrozoans, including siphonophores, trachylines, leptothecathes, and anthoathecates. Working with hydromedusae was new for me and I discovered that observing them was more challenging than identifying the polyps, but it was also interesting in its own way. The hydrozoans that caught my attention the most were the polyps from the suborder Capitata, because their morphology is very different from the hydroids that I have observed in my MSc project so far. Capitate hydroids don’t have a protective theca, they possess tentacles that end up in a ball of nematocysts (so-called capitate tentacles), and they are absent from almost all my samples from Mallorca, which are instead dominated by hydroids belonging to the Order Lepthothecata.

Top: Colony of Sarsia lovenii (Anthoathecata: Corynidae) with gonophores (i.e. reproductive buds on the polyp body). You can also see the capitate tentacles, which end in a ball of nematocysts and are typical for suborder Capitata. Bottom: Colony of Clava multicornis showing also gonophores on the polyp body, but with filiform (non-capitate) tentacles. Picture credits: Lara Beckmann (top), Joan J. Soto Àngel (bottom).

My interest for hydrozoans, the great set of experts we had as teachers, and the charismatic animals that we collected were the perfect combination for me to have an incredible experience in this course. I think that courses like these are an excellent opportunity for beginners to learn with experts from different parts of the world. Interacting with all of these amazing people was very rewarding at both cultural and scientific levels, and this whole experience motivated me to keep on studying these interesting animals that are a part of the complex functioning of our oceans.

-Ana

Legendary colleagues meet once again; in search of Idzi Drzycimskis harpacticoids with help of R/V Hans Brattström

R/V Hans Brattström. Photo: Anne Helene Tandberg

Professor Dr. Idzi Drzycimski was one of the few who studied copepods here in Bergen, and in particularly the order of Harpacticoida. Drzycimski was foremost an occupied oceanologist and ichthyologist (the study of fish), but during his career he also described several new species from the order Harpacticoida. A few of those records are from Norway and are currently an important resource for our study of hyberbenthic copepods (HYPCOP). Drzycimski stayed in Bergen for a few years during the sixties and build up an extensive collection of copepods.  

 

Idzi Drzycimski 

Idzi Drzycimski was born December 5th, 1933 in Klonowo; a very small village North of Bydgoszcz, Poland. He studied Biology with a specialization in Hydrobiology at the Odessa University of I.I. Miecznikow. In 1957 he graduated and started working at the Sea fisheries Institute in Gdynia at the Oceanography Department, led by Professor Kazimierz Demel. Later followed by a career at the Department of Oceanography and Marine Biology at the University of Agriculture in Olsztyn, Faculty of Fisheries. In 1963 he obtained the degree of Doctor in natural sciences and in 1969 he habilitated. In 1985 he received the academic title of associate professor and eventually became full professor in the same year.

Drzycimski publication in Sarsia about new species of copepods.

Throughout his career he completed several internships in Germany, Norway, Italy and participated in several research cruises in the South Baltic Sea, North Sea and the Norwegian Fjords. During these cruises he collected and described 11 species new to science and 3 new types of marine crustaceans that have entered into the international zoological systematics. He promoted 8 doctors and continued to be the head of the department of oceanography at the faculty of sea fisheries. All while he published hundreds of articles and finally in 2001 he was awarded the Medal of Professor Kazimierz Demel.

 

 

Sampling for copepods 

As noted earlier, HYPCOP uses Drzycimski works for the project; his database, collection and publications from his years in Bergen are good source of information. Drzycimski published two publications with Harpacticoida findings from 1967 and 1968. He described 5 new species of Harpactcoida from West Norway, with sampling locations close to Bergen. Now, half a century later, we wanted to revisit these sampling sites to see if we could find the same or different species. Some off the sampling locations were from the middle of the fjords near Bergen and would therefore be excellent to revisit.  Drzycimski had sampled different spots from around the Krossfjorden, Bjørnefjorden and Raunefjorden. Most of these were deep sandy and muddy bottoms, from around 300-700m. Species that he had found there he described as Marsteinia typica, Pseudotachidius vikingus, Marsteinia similis, Leptopsyllus elongatus and Dorsiceratus octocornis. These all have the typical small body sizes of around 400-800 μm and are very inconspicuous and hard to find with the naked eye.  

 

Brattström & Drzycimski 

 

Beautiful day for sampling benthos. Photo: Cessa Rauch

With help of research vessel Hand Brattström and researcher Anne Helene Tandberg, we managed to sample two locations in the Krossfjorden between 400-700m depth that were sampled before in the 60s by Drzycimski. Prior to the sampling day we made a hit list of 4 locations that we wanted to revisit, but two of those locations got inaccessible. In the span of 60 years a lot of things have changed, places that once where easy accessible for sampling are nowadays littered with e.g. fishing gear waste. Which would destroy our plankton nets when they get stuck in this. On top off that Drzycimski also did not describe in his papers how he managed to collect his copepod samples, but most likely this was done with a sled, and in this case we would be using the R.P. sled. The R.P. sled is an epibenthic sampler. That means that it samples the

Anne Helene Tandberg and crew working on retrieving samples from the RP-sled. Photo: Ellen Viste

animals that live just at the top of the (soft) seafloor with a fine plankton net, if you want to read more details about the R.P. sled you can read that here. Once again our sled expert Anne Helene would join us on this trip to help HYPCOP with sampling and also to be on the lookout for sampling for amphipods. After the sled collected the benthic animals, we needed to filter the sled sample by a process which is called decanting (See the YouTube movie in this blog).  With decanting you separate the mixture of the animal soup from the liquid by washing them in a big bucket, throw the liquid through a filter and collect the animals carefully to avoid damaging them.  

 

 

 

 

Drzycimskis visit at the museum was during the years of Hans Brattströms Professorship at the University of Bergen in marine biology (1962-1978). During those years Brattström started the scientific journal Sarsia, where Drzycimski published his copepod species description’s. There is not much about whether the two professors knew each other well, but it is very likely. And so it was special that few generations later, Hans Brattström once again facilitates research for Drzycimski, although this time as a research vessel and a new generation of scientists working on marine benthos.  

New generation of scientists working on marine benthos. from the left: Anne Helene Tandberg, Francisca Carvalho, Cessa Rauch, Ellen Viste and Justine Siegwald

Cessa & Anne Helene 


Literature:

Drzycimski, I. “Zvvei neue Harpacticoida (Copepoda) aus dem Westnorwegischen Kdstengebiet.” Sarsia 30.1 (1967): 75-82. 

Drzycimski, I. “Drei neue Harpacticoida aus westnorwegen.” Sarsia 36.1 (1968): 55-64. 

Bryozoa-workshop at Espegrend

February 14th -18th 2022

The Bryozoa are maybe not the most famous of animals, so let’s start with a quick rundown: Bryozoa, also known as Polyzoa, Ectoprocta, or moss animals (mosdyr, på norsk) are a phylum of aquatic invertebrates. Bryozoans, together with phoronids and brachiopods, have a special feeding structure called a lophophore, a “crown” of hollow tentacles used for filter feeding, which you can see in action in the video Tine captured:

In Norway we have 292 species registered, of which 281 are marine (Kunnskapsstatus for artsmangfoldet 2020, pdf here). It is estimated that the actual number of species present is higher. Further, several known species are considered “door knocker species” that may establish here within the next 50 years.

Bryozoa mostly live in colonies made up of tiny individual animals called zooids, which grow in a variety of shapes, and some of them provide structural habitats for other species. They are food for many other animals, namely nudibranchs, fish, sea urchins, pycnogonids, crustaceans, mites and starfish. Marine bryozoans are often responsible for biofouling on ships’ hulls, on docks and marinas, and on offshore structures. They are among the first colonizers of new or recently cleaned structures, and may hitchhike to new places with marine traffic. (Bonus: they have a super interesting fossil record, and this can be used to tell us more about the world in the way back!)

A few of the shapes the colonies can grow in. Pictured are 1: Membraniporella nitida 2: Bugula sp. 3: Flustrella hispida 4: Crisia eburnea

They are one of the focus groups of Hardbunnsfauna: there is still a lot we do not know about them!

Ernst Haeckel – Kunstformen der Natur (1904), plate 23: Bryozoa. Public domain, accessed through Wikipedia

Planning in a pandemic is not easy, and we have had to postpone our plans for this gathering several times. The second week of February we could finally gather our “Team Bryozoa” here in Bergen for a week of in-depth studies of these fascinating animals.

Team Bryozoa (centre), from left Piotr, Mali, Jo and Lee Hsiang, and some of the animals they studied. Group photo by Piotr Kuklinski

In total we were 11 participants;
University Museum of Bergen: Endre, Jon, Tom and Katrine,
Natural History Museum in Oslo: Lee Hsiang and Mali,
NTNU University Museum: Torkild, Tine (MSc. student) and Tiril (MSc. student),
and our two visitors from abroad:
from the Institute of Oceanology, Polish Academy of Sciences came Piotr,
and from the Heriot Watt University (Orkney Campus), Joanne.

The main focus of the workshop was to get as many samples and species as possible identified, work though the DNA barcode vouchers from samples submitted in advance and reach a consensus on which species the dubious ones were, to network with our colleagues, and to include the students in the work and the team. It all went swimmingly, and a we had a very productive and enjoyable week!

check out @hardbunnsfauna on Instagram for more!

 

We set up camp on Espegrend Marine Biological station, and combined long days in the lab studying material collected throughout the project with shorter trips out on R/V Hans Brattstrøm.

Here we collected live colonies, introduced the students to various collecting methods, and let everyone catch some fresh fjord air.

 

Tine (top left) working together with Mali in the lab and in the field.

 

 

Tine is doing her master thesis on the species distribution of Bryozoa in shallow water along the Norwegian coast.

During the workshop she got the chance to have some of the difficult species identifications verified by the experts,  and she prepared a plate of 95 tissue samples that will be DNA barcoded though NorBOL.

 

 

Tiril, top left, together with Jon on the ship and working in the lab.

 

We also had Tiril with us, who is just starting out on what will become a thesis on ascidians (sea squirts), most likely with a focus on species in the genus Botryllus and Botrylloides. 

She worked together with Tom, getting familiar with the literature and the methods used for working on the group. Like Tine, she will be using a combination of traditional morphology based methods and genetic data.

 

A few impressions from the week

Going forward we’ll first send the plate of tissue samples to CCDB to be sequenced, fingers crossed for good results! During the week, *so many* samples were identified, so we will certainly be preparing more plates during the spring. All the identified samples will be included into the scientific collections of the museum.

Thank you so much to all the participants for their efforts!

-Katrine

Throwback Thursday; HYPCOP workshop at the museum

The project of studying hyperbenthic copepods (HYPCOP) is unique in multiple ways; we study a very unknown group of marine copepod species with very little taxonomic knowledge available here, in Norway. It is challenging as there are more than 700 species described, and possibly more. With pandemic lockdowns, it was hard to have international specialists come and help us, so we had to rely on resources available locally. With so many institutes involved from different corners of Norway, it was not always easy to meet up physically to work on our collection. Hence, when it happens, it is a memorable event, and valuable progress for the project is made.

One of the many species of copepod we have here in the collection at the UiB museum

We have Tone Falkenhaug as the project leader, situated at the Institute of Marine Research in Flødevigen (IMR), than we have our collaborator from Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA), Anders Hobæk and the three technicians at the department of natural history from the University of Bergen. The year before we all got together in Flødevigen, so for 2021 we decided that it would be Bergen to have another workshop.

From ltr; Anders Hobæk, Cessa Rauch, Tone Falkenhaug and Francisca Carvalho making the picture

A year into our project we managed to build up a substantial collection of benthic copepods; currently we have around 460 registered specimens, and 195 off those are barcoded with two different DNA markers, mitochondrial (COI) and ribosomal (16S). What keeps ahead of us is the monster task of working through our specimens to label the DNA barcodes with morphological identifications. It means many hours of very precise work with the finest needles, while sitting at the microscope.

During our workshop in Bergen we got together to work through one of the copepod family trees we generated from their DNA:

Preliminary tree of the COI mitochondrial marker

Anders Hobæk is a taxonomist with many years of experience dissecting copepods, and together we went through the samples one by one. It is very satisfying to be able to identify a specimen and get the to the same species level as the DNA barcode. There are multiple reasons as why we choose to identify species based on morphology.

Not all species are easy to barcode, as copepods, especially the benthic ones, are often so extremely tiny; it is difficult to get good quality DNA extracted from them.

Copepods are tiny; this one with scalebar

The small quantities of copepod DNA goes hand in hand with greater risk of contamination of other surrounding DNA, especially if you work with more general markers. Besides, even if we have the DNA barcode, not all copepod DNA is identified as such, which means that even with the right DNA, when running it through the database, it tells us that we have fly DNA, to give an example. Last but not least, in a lot of cases, we were not able to get good DNA sequences from the copepod extracts, so the only option is identifying them morphologically, by dissecting the animals and with help of literature identify the right genus, or even better, the species.

Species identification with help of literature, here a page from G.O. Sars

Our next workshop shall take place again in Flødevigen, in the meantime we keep you updated about our planet of the copepods.

Follow us for more copepod content @planetcopepod, see you there!

 

-Cessa

2021 in review for Hardbunnsfauna

Another year of our “Hardbunnsfauna”-project;  Invertebrate fauna of marine rocky shallow-water habitats: species mapping and DNA barcoding (funded by the Norwegian taxonomy Initiative) is coming to an end.

I opted for an easy way to show some of the activities we’ve had on our by selecting a post from each month on our Instagram account to share.

Do give us a follow, if you aren’t already: we are @hardbunnsfauna on both Instagram and Twitter!

Click on the images to expand them

January: Field work on R/V Hans Brattstrøm in gorgeous (but FREEZING) weather

February: our report from field work in Saltstraumen got published

March: Workshop at Espegrend field station together with the projects HypCop and NorChitons

April: results are coming in on some of the DNA barcoding we are doing. Sponges (like the blue one here) are tricky to barcode, but we are getting some interesting results!

May: we have also barcoded a lot of other groups, including a substantial amount of microgastropods (tiny snails)

June: The first master student from the project successfully presented his thesis

July: We played marine invertebrate bingo (did you get a full set..?)

August: Fieldwork in the neighborhood; we sampled invertebrates from the fjord clean-up SUB was doing in Puddefjorden

September: We participated at an event at Os together with Havkollektivet, introducing the invertebrate and vertebrate locals to each other

October: Katrine was on a research cruise with limited internet, but did sample many interesting critters for the project

November: Field work in Haugesund, where Slettaa Dykkerklubb arranged a course on marine biology for divers

December: Pre-end-of-year-hectic-season, but we are enjoying the contributions coming in (physical and electronic) from our wonderful citizen scientists!

Then we wish you all some very
-Katrine

Research internship – Carla García Carrancio

On summer 2021 I had the opportunity to conduct a research visit at the University Museum of Bergen under project NorHydro. Concretely, I was working with the hydrozoan collections, where I got to know first-hand the role played by the curators and the importance of the collections. I examined several specimens and digitalized their associated data creating e-vouchers. Having all the information of specimens in a digital format is very important because it allows other researchers to access the material without having to come to the museum and helps to make the inventory more accessible and organised. I also improved my knowledge of hydrozoan diversity by identifying numerous specimens deposited at the museum. For that, I used some keys for both thecate and athecate hydroids from North—West European waters as well as the guidance of my MSc supervisor Luis Martell.

The main difference between leptothecate and anthoathecate hydroids is the lack of theca in the latter (the theca is a cup-like structure that protects the polyps), but some of them can be very tricky to identify since anthoathecate hydroids may have theca-like structures, and the theca of lepthothecate polyps may be difficult to see at first sight. Also, when you look at a sample, you may found several hydrozoans growing on the same substrate all together, making identification even more difficult. One of the characteristics used to differentiate species is the presence and the shape of the reproductive structures (gonophores), but they are not always present if the polyps are not reproductive.

Sertularella rugosa (top row) is without a doubt one of my favourite hydrozoans. The hydrothecae resemble a bee hive and the colony has a zig-zag appearance. However, it is easy to confuse it with Sertularella tenella (bottom row). Pictures credits: Carla García.

Polyps of the family Campanulariidae. This common family is characterized by the presence of a bell-shaped theca. Pictures credits: Carla García.

During my stay, I also had the chance to go sampling on a research boat, which helped me to understand better the procedures and requirements that are necessary to collect hydrozoans. We used a wide-mouthed plankton net that went up and down at a constant speed to avoid damaging the jellies and other gelatinous organisms from the plankton. After sampling, we took the cod-end to the laboratory. There, the content of the cod-end was poured on a light table. Then, we selected interesting specimens (including hydromedusae belonging to genus Euphysa) with wide mouthed pipettes and transferred them to Petri dishes filled with fresh seawater to observe them better under a microscope.

Towing the plankton-net which went down to 650m to capture some gelatinous organisms. As you can imagine, going up and down such a long distance takes a lot of time, but it is never boring with colleagues like Aino Hosia (right). Picture credits: Carla García.

I was lucky enough to get samples of Euphysa aurata and Euphysa sp., but they did not want to pose for my photo and kept moving around. Picture credits: Carla García.

We took the opportunity to collect some shallow-water benthic hydroids just in front of the Marine Station. Picture credit: Carla García.

Last but not least, I worked at the DNA lab, which allowed me to gain experience in new molecular techniques that I had not used before and to adapt myself to different (and very modern) facilities.

This experience has been simply great for me. I loved the working environment and the fact that everybody was always there to give me a hand. I have learned a lot and I am taking with me many friends that I hope to meet again when I come back to Bergen.

If you want to know more about projects of NorHydro and HYPNO, visit NorHydro’s home page and Facebook page, and check the hashtags #HYPNO and #NorHydro inTwitter.

               

-Carla García-Carrancio

Hello Jorunna artsdatabankia; new sea slug for Norway and to the World!

In 2018 former master student Jenny Neuhaus started working under supervision of Manuel Malaquias and Cessa Rauch on the sea slug species Jorunna tomentosa.

Jenny presenting her work on Jorunna tomentosa on the world malacology conference in the USA

It was known already for some time that this sea slug occurs in a wide variety of colour patterns (morphotypes). With the increased discovery of cryptic species due to improved molecular techniques we wondered if we were dealing with a single species or several cryptic lineages.

For a long time the different colours and patterns were regarded as natural variation within the species, consisting of shades of grey-white, cream-yellow, pale orange and either plain of blotched with light brown or chocolate brown spots of various sizes, distributed either irregularly or in lines, or combination of both!

But it was this variety that tossed up the question eventually whether we are dealing with a single species after all.

The diversity within Jorunna tomentosa

The nudibranch genus Jorunna consisted of eleven recognized species occurring in European waters. At that time, Jorunna tomentosa (Cuvier, 1804) was the only known species of this genus to be found along the Norwegian coastline. Prior to the study, the northernmost record of J. tomentosa was listed from Vestvågøy, Lofoten, Nordland. Today we know that the species is found at least 550 km further North in the Magerøysundet, Troms og Finnmark.

Jorunna tomentosa has an oval-elongate body shape with different colours varying from grey-white to cream-yellow and pale orange. They can reach a size up to 55 mm and occur at depths from a few meters down to more than 400m. They feed on sponges of the species Halichondria panicea, Haliclona oculata and Haliclona cinerea. J. tomentosa can be found from Finnmark in northern Norway, southwards along the European Atlantic coastline, the British Isles, the French coast, Iberian Peninsula, Mediterranean Sea up to Turkey, and the Azores and Canary Islands. Besides the species has even been recorded from South Africa.

Jenny Neuhaus in the lab of Prof. Marta Pola in Spain dissecting specimens for anatomical studies

Jenny compared specimens from different parts of the world, including Norway, Ireland, Spain, France, Portugal including the Azores and South Africa. She took tissue samples for genetic studies and dissected them for their anatomy.

For the genetic studies we selected three different gene markers called COI, 16S and H3 to check how these morphotypes compare with each other and evaluate the meaning of genetic distances.

From the genetic distance analyses, it became clear that we were dealing with a “cryptic species complex”, as a clade of three specimens showed substantial genetic difference compared to J. tomentosa but seemed morphologically indistinguishable from another at first glance.

As sea slug anatomy is a matter of complexity, especially since each animal possesses both male and female reproductive organs (hermaphrodite), the expertise of Prof. Marta Pola from the University of Madrid was essential to conduct detailed morpho-anatomical studies. We were able to detect structural differences in the rasping tongue (radula) and parts of the reproductive apparatus.

Meet Jorunna artsdatabankia!

Jenny sequenced the DNA of 78 specimens of which 60 where successful for using in the final phylogenetic analyses. Her results supported the presence of a new Jorunna species, and in addition a possible case of incipient speciation in J. tomentosa with two genetic lineages morphologically undistinguishable. The new Jorunna species was based on material collected from Norway (Kristiansund, Frøya & the North Sea).

Jorunna artsdatabankia

J. artsdatabankia has a plain white to yellow background colour accompanied by small brownish spots irregularly placed on the body surface. Its distributional range is so far restricted to Norway, being recorded from Skogsøya, Frøya (Trøndelag), Brattøya, Kristiansund (Møre og Romsdal), and a North Sea plateau (60.726944 0.505371) with a depth range from 27 to 350 meters, suggesting a sympatric occurrence with J. tomentosa.

Jorunna artsdatabankia in comparison to Jorunna tomentosa

The name attributed to this new species was chosen to recognize the work of the Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre (Artsdatabanken) for their instrumental role promoting and supporting biodiversity research in Norway.

– Cessa Rauch, Jenny Neuhaus, Manuel Malaquias

 

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The paper can be found here:

The genus Jorunna (Nudibranchia: Discodorididae) in Europe: a new species and a possible case of incipient speciation. Jenny Neuhaus, Cessa Rauch, Torkild Bakken, Bernard Picton, Marta Pola, Manuel António E Malaquias (2021), Journal of Molluscan Studies, Volume 87, Issue 4, December 2021, eyab028, https://doi.org/10.1093/mollus/eyab028

On the study of the diversity of Euphysa in Norwegian Waters

NorHydro’s student and collaborator Carla García has just defended her MSc thesis! We asked her to share with us a little bit about her project and this is what she had to say:

During summer 2020 I started learning about hydrozoans through online chats with my supervisor, Luis Martell. At that time, I was not familiar with these curious animals but they caught my attention and by September that year I had already fallen in love with them so I moved to Mallorca to pursue a Master’s Degree in Marine Ecology and work with hydrozoan diversity. For my master’s thesis I worked in a case that was part of project NorHydro (Norwegian Marine Benthic Hydrozoa), led by Luis at the University Museum of Bergen. The global pandemic has put many limits and obstacles in the way of my project, but I have been able to cope with them successfully by combining presential lessons in Mallorca with online courses and meetings with my fellows in Norway.

Me in Mallorca sampling my first benthic hydrozoans (Pennaria disticha and Eudendrium sp.) Picture credits: María Capa and Carla García.

My research was focused in the diversity of genus Euphysa (family Corymorphidae), which had not been assessed in Norway before. I wanted to determine which and how many species of this genus are present in Norwegian and adjacent waters and to characterise them morphologically and genetically. The problem with these animals is that many Euphysa species are not easy to tell apart from each other and there is a big taxonomic controversy within this group. For example, Euphysa aurata is one of the most frequently reported species in Norway, but are we sure that all the records belong to the same species?

Detailed observations of the samples raised my suspicions about the possibility that a complex of species could be hidden within this species name. To try to solve this problem I used an integrative approach combining molecular (DNA barcoding) and morphological analyses (documenting diagnostic characters). The result of this was that we discovered a new species of Euphysa in the waters outside Bergen and we are in the process to describe it!

Medusae of Euphysa aurata (top row) and Euphysa sp. nov. (bottom row), the main taxa covered in my project and two easily confused species. Picture credits: NorHydro and HYPNO.

The first step in the approach I followed was the field work. I gathered samples of hydromedusae and polyps from different localities across the Northeast Atlantic waters and also used some preserved specimens from the University Museum of Bergen. Because last year’s restrictions during the pandemic, part of my samples had to be sent by post to Mallorca, where I carried out the second step: laboratory work. This part included all the steps that go from the DNA extraction to the sequencing of three specific DNA fragments (called barcodes), which allow us to identify and distinguish between species based on similarity with reference sequences from online databases. Then, I applied some phylogenetic analyses and species delimitation tools. What these techniques do is to infer the evolutionary history of the three DNA markers that I sequenced (COI, 16S, and ITS). The results are visualized in the form of phylogenetic trees that we have to interpret and to decide if they are reliable or not. Then, I used species delimitation software to delineate species boundaries. The last step was to look again at the morphology and search for diagnostic characters that allow us to differentiate the species of Euphysa.

Sampling with my lab partners Mariana Strauss and Raúl González. We were looking for hydroids, small worms, and goose barnacles for our respective research projects. Picture credits: María Capa and Carla García.

Each and every life form that make up our planet, no matter how small it is, is a key component to the functioning of the Earth as a whole, and for that they deserve to be studied. Knowing how many species inhabit the Earth has always been one of the main questions of science, so I am really happy to contribute to a better understanding of ocean biodiversity and concretely, to hydrozoan systematics.

If like me, hydrozoans have piqued your curiosity and you want to know more on the activities of NorHydro and my results, you can check NorHydro’s home page and Facebook page, as well as the hashtags #HYPNO and #NorHydro inTwitter.

-Carla García-Carrancio