Category Archives: Crustacea

Scavengers in the ocean

Lysianassoid amphipods from a trap in Raudfjorden, Svalbard. Photo: AHS Tandberg

Most animals are sloppy eaters. They have their favourite piece of food that they go for, and then they leave the rest. This allows for others to pick up where others leave. One of the laws of ecology is that “there is no such thing as an empty ecological niche”. That can be translated to “where there is a food-source (or a place to live) someone or something will use that food-source (or place to live). And that gets us to the sloppy eaters out there, and not least the animals picking up after all the sloppy eaters.

From the pigeons crowding under your cafe-table for your panini-crumbs to the rats in our sewers, our “local scavengers” tend to be animals we feel slightly uncomfortable around. Is it different with the scavengers we dont see so often? It does not seem that way. Vultures  are not the most popular birds, even the word “vulture” has a negative connotation – and we mainly use it in its non-bird meaning.

How about the scavengers of the sea? As on land, we have many different animal-groups that can be classified as scavengers. Many of the marine scavengers are invertebrates (even if some fishes also scavenge). Let us look at the scavenging Lysianassoid amphipods. Are these as little loved in our world as the rats and vultures seem to be?

A typical lysianassoid amphipod. Photo: AHS Tandberg

Lysianassoid amphipods can mostly be distinguished from other amphipods by their “telescope-like” antennae: a very fat inner article with the two next looking like a collapsed old fashioned radio-antenna; two short rings. We know that the antennae of crustaceans are often used to “smell” things in the water – food or mates or possibly even enemies. It is not thought that the radio-antenna-shape of the Lysianassoid antenna specifically has to do with being a scavenger, as other amphipods and indeed several other crustaceans not having such an antenna are also scavengers. But most Lysianassoids have that antennae, and it makes for an easy first-sorting for the scientist. (Getting further – towards a genus, or even species name on the other hand, is not so easy).

Other general traits in most Lysianassoids, are the smooth exterior, and their high swimming abilities. Both are good if you need to get to some leftover food-source fast, and to “dive” into the food-source while not getting stuck through the entry.

Leftovers of bait (polarcod) after 24 hrs in the trap. Not much left for dinner… Photo: AHS Tandberg

And this is where many Lysianassoids loose out when it comes to human appreciation. They seem to love to scavenge on fish caught in fishnets and traps, and both professional and hobby fishers don’t like to share their catch. We dont think it is very appetising to find our fish-dinner “infested” by non-fish. I am quite sure the scavengers being pulled up with their lovely find of dead or dying fish also are not pleased with having to share their dinner with us.

Lysianassoid scavenging amphipods are the focus of our NBIC-financed project NorAmph2. Here, we will collect and register what different species are present in Norway, and we will try to barcode them. These are quite tricky animals to identify properly, but luckily we have teamed up with the best lysianassoid-expert we know – Tammy Horton from the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, UK.

We use baited traps to collect: put some lovely, smelly fish out there and see who comes to dine. So far, we have collected from Svalbard in the north to Kong Haakon VIIs Hav in the south, and from the intertidal to the deep. They are often many, and the size-variation is great. We look forward to continuing finding out what species we have, and to see if what morphologically seems one species really is (only) one species genetically. (This previous blog-post (in Norwegian) tells the story about one scavenging amphipod that turned out to be 15 (or maybe even more!) separate species)

Anne Helene

HYPCOP kickoff!

Follow us at @planetcopepod!

Tuesday may 19 was the first fieldwork of the new project called Hyperbenthic Copepoda (HYPCOP). You can read more about the field work and see some photos and videos from the field in the previous blog post. 

Copepoda are small crustaceans that are found all over the world in both marine and freshwater habitats. Species can be planktonic (drifting in the sea water) or can be parasitic and a large diverse group of them live on algae in the hyperbenthic (living near the bottom) zone. Copepoda are very important food source for many organisms like small fish, they are on the bottom of the food pyramid, together with other zooplankton. Without copepods, a lot of bigger animals would no exists. Despite being so important, not much is known about the biodiversity and taxonomy of these animals, especially that of the species that live near the bottom.Some species like Calanus finmarchicus are the main nutritional basis for many fish species, and therefore of great importance for the Norwegian fish strains.  Therefore Artsdatabanken is funding the new project HYPCOP in order to unravel the biodiversity and taxonomy of hyperbenthos copepods. With special focus on the species in the group Harpacticoida that live in the water masses just above or near the bottom. Copepods from shallow water will be collected in coastal areas, in deep fjords and on the continental shelf.

The Institute of Marine Research (IMR), Natural history museum of Bergen (UiB), Norwegian Institute for water research (NIVA) and the Norwegian Barcode of Life (NorBoL) are working together to survey the diversity of marine copepods in Norwegian waters and expect to find and describe species that are new to science and new for Norway! Currently some of the taxonomic competence in Norway is lacking, but through collaboration with foreign experts this knowledge will increase among Norwegian researchers and students!

The projects duration will run from 2020 until 2023 and last week was the official kickoff with some fieldwork to get fresh material to work with! Together with the project Hardbunnsfauna we drove to a local favorite collection site of us; Biskopshavn; very close to Bergen city center. Around the hard substrate we found lots of freshly grown algae that contained many small animals for us to collect! In order to get good quality samples we needed to be in the water and snorkel. With plankton nets we collected algae and sieved the water column catching the smallest of the animals; copepods!

And even though this was just a first test of equipment and collection methods, it was not without success. Back in the lab the microscope revealed the beautiful and diverse world one drop of seawater contains. A lot off small crustaceans and of course the copepods were omnipresent.

Our findings had to be shared and especially for #InternationalDayForBiologicalDiversity the copepods cannot be left out as they from such an important group! See for yourself the beauty of our copepod planet!

-Cessa

Why study boring amphipoda and other strange taxa?

Bircenna thieli seen from the front and the side. SEM photo, Fig 6 in Hughes and Lörz, 2019.

This question (or a version of it) is something a lot of us taxonomists are faced with quite often when we try to explain what we do for a living. And I do understand the need to ask – couldn´t our talents be used better doing something it might be easier to understand the use of? We think the study of taxonomy is higly important, and does bring about useful knowledge for the world. Therefore, we have several taxonomic projects in our group, and we write about them here in the blog. (If you read norwegian, you can read about our projects here)

 

March 19th was the world Taxonomist Appreciation Day – a day we have “celebrated” since 2013. Why do we need this day? Taxonomy is the science of naming, defining, describing, cataloguing, identifying and classifying groups of biological organisms. We do this in labs and on fieldwork, and the natural history museums (these days represented from our home offices) have a special responsibility for this work, since one part of the formal description of a taxon is to designate a type and store that in a museum collection. We will come back to the importance of types in a later blog here.

Terry McGlynn, the professor and blogger who initiated the Taxonomist Appreciation Day wrote: ” I want to declare a new holiday! If you’re a biologist, no matter what kind of work you do, there are people in your lives that have made your work possible. Even if you’re working on a single-species system, or are a theoretician, the discoveries and methods of systematists are the basis of your work. Long before mass sequencing or the emergence of proteomics, and other stuff like that, the foundations of bioinformatics were laid by systematists. We need active work on taxonomy and systematics if our work is going to progress, and if we are to apply our findings. Without taxonomists, entire fields wouldn’t exist. We’d be working in darkness.”

Every year a large number of new taxa are described – last year almost 2000 of the new species described were marine. March 19th every year, the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) and LifeWatch publish their favourite 10 marine species described in the previous year, and this year – corona-shutdown and all – was no exception.

All ten new species are fun, beautiful and remarkable – but Polyplacotoma mediterranea Osigus & Schierwater, 2019 deserves special mentioning. P. mediterranea is the third species described ever in the phylum Placozoa – who are viewed as one of the key-taxa to understand early animal evolution. They were first described in 1883 (by Schulze), and the name Placozoa indicated what they looked like: small (around 1 mm for the largest of the specimens) platelike animals. 2018 saw the second species of placozoans described – genetically, as it was impossible to separate morphologically – but then our new placozoan came – and it is 10mm large, is branched, and has its natural habitat in the mediterranean intertidal! Phylum Placozoa will never be the same again, and our understanding of the early evolution of animals has become even more interesting.

 

What then about the boring amphipods? Or course they are not boring as in saying they are dull! The “boring amphipod” Bircenna thieli Hughes & Lörz, 2019 bores in the sense that they excavate tunnels into the stem of the common bull kelp Durvillaea potatorum (Labillardière) Areschoug, 1854 in the intertidal and shallow waters by Tasmania.

Bircenna thieli has a head almost like an ant, and a quite unusual shape of its back-body. Fig 8 from Hughes and Lörz, 2019

Their head has an ant-like ball-shape unlike many other amphipods where the head is more ornate or has a visible rostrum, but the exciting morphology comes at the other end of the animal – where the telson and last segment have structures never seen before in amphipods, and structures that only other vegetation-boring amphipods show.

So why do we think describing tiny animals, plants, fungi, bacteria and other organisms is so important? Let us ask you back: how can you appreciate what you have and care about what might be lost if you dont know who they are?

Anne Helene

(this post was written March 19th, but posted later..)


Literature:
Eitel M, Osigus H-J, DeSalle R, Schierwater B (2013) Global Diversity of the Placozoa. PLoS ONE 8(4): e57131. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057131

Hughes, L.E.; Lörz, A.-N. (2019). Boring Amphipods from Tasmania, Australia (Eophliantidae: Amphipoda: Crustacea). Evolutionary Systematics 3(1): 41-52. https://doi.org/10.3897/evolsyst.3.35340

Osigus, H.-J.; Rolfes, S.; Herzog, R.; Kamm, K.; Schierwater, B. (2019). Polyplacotoma mediterranea is a new ramified placozoan species. Current Biology 29(5): R148-R149. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2019.01.068


Do you want to find out more about Taxonomist Appreciation Day or about all the 10 exciting species?

Ten remarkable new marine species from 2019

Today is Taxonomist Appreciation Day!

A compendium of taxonomists on ORCID

and not least –  you can still follow the #TaxonomistAppreciationDay on Twitter (and be prepared for 2021!)

New year, new field work!

2019 will bring a lot of field work for us at the invertebrate collections – not only do we have our usual activity, but we will also have *FIVE* Norwegian Taxonomy Initiative projects (Artsprosjekt) running!

On a rather windy Tuesday in January, four of us – representing four of these projects – set out with R/V “Hans Brattstrøm”.

Four projects on the hunt for samples! Photo: A.H.S. Tandberg

Our main target for the day was actually not connected to any of the NTI-projects – we were hunting for the helmet jellyfish, Periphylla periphylla. We need fresh specimens that can be preserved in a nice way, so that they can be included in the upcoming new exhibits we are making for our freshly renovated museum. We were also collecting other “charismatic megafauna” that would be suitable for the new exhibits.

We have been getting Periphylla in most of our plankton samples since last summer, so when we decided this was a species we would like to show in our exhibits about the Norwegian Seas, we did not think it would be a big problem to get more.

This is a species that eats other plankton, so normally when we get it, we try to get rid of it as fast as possible; we want to keep the rest of the sample! But we should have known. Don’t ever say out loud you want a specific species – even something very common. Last November, we planned to look specifically for Periphylla, and we brought several extra people along just because of that. But not a single specimen came up in the samples – even when we tried where we “always” get them…

Lurefjorden is famous for being a hotspot for Periphylla – so the odds were in our favor! Map: K. Kongshavn

Wise from Novembers overconfident cruise, this time we planned to call to the lab IF we got anything to preserve. The Plankton-sample did not look too good for Periphylla: we only got a juvenile and some very small babies. So we cast the bottom-trawl out (the smallest and cutest trawl any of us have ever used!), and this sample brought us the jackpot! Several adult Periphylla, and a set of medium-sized ones as well! Back in out preparation-lab an entire size-range of the jelly is getting ready for our museum – be sure to look for it when you come visit us!

We of course wanted to maximize the output of our boat time– so in addition to Periphylla-hunting, we sampled for plankton (also to be used for the upcoming ForBio-course in zooplankton), tested the traps that NorAmph2 will be using to collect amphipods from the superfamily Lysianassoidea, checked the trawl catch carefully for nudibranchs (Sea Slugs of Southern Norway, SSSN) and benthic Hydrozoa (NorHydro), and used a triangular dredge to collect samples from shallow hard-bottom substrate that can be part of either SSSN or the upcoming projects NorHydro (“Norwegian marine benthic Hydrozoa”) or “Invertebrate fauna of marine rocky shallow-water habitats; species mapping and DNA barcoding” (Hardbunnsfauna).

The Hardbunnsfauna project was especially looking for Tunicates that we didn’t already have preserved in ethanol, as we want to start barcoding these once the project begins in earnest (last week of March). We also collected bryozoans, some small calcareous sponges, and (surprise, surprise!) polychaetes.

When it comes to hydrozoans, we were lucky to find several colonies of thecate hydroids from families Campanulariidae and Bougainvilliidae that represent some of the first records for NorHydro. Hydroid colonies growing on red and brown algae were particularly common and will provide a nice baseline against which diversity in other localities will be contrasted.

Different hydroid colonies growing on algae and rocks at the bottom of Lurefjorden. Photo: L. Martell

There were not a lot of sea slugs to be found on this day, but we did get a nice little Cuthona and a Onchidoris.

But what about the Amphipod-traps? Scavengers like Lysianassoidea need some time to realize that there is food around, and then they need to get to it. Our traps have one small opening in one end, but the nice smell of decomposing fish also comes out in the other end of the trap. We therefore normally leave traps out at least 24 hours (or even 48), and at this trip we only had the time to leave them for 7 hours. The collected result was therefore minimal – we even got most of the bait back up. However, knowing that we have a design we can deploy and retrieve from the vessel is very good, and we got to test how the technical details work. It was quite dark when we came to retrieve the traps, so we were very happy to see them! All in all not so bad!

We had a good day at sea, and it will be exciting to see some of our animals displayed in the new exhibits!


If you want to know more about our projects, we are all planning on blogging here as we progress. Additionally you can find more on the

-Anne Helene, Cessa, Luis & Katrine 

Door #20 The Hitchhikers Guide to the Ocean

The sea is for most of its inhabitants a vast place where danger can get to you anywhere. This might be especially true when you are one of those small and mostly harmless species spending your life slowly swimming around, minding your own business (eating and reproducing), somewhere in the upper 200m or so of water. Because there are many big-mouthed and possibly big eyed animals out there that think you might be one of the best things there is to eat.

Hyperiella antarctica with Spongiobranchaea australis. Photo: C Havermans, AWI.

For the small pelagic (living in the open ocean and not close to the sea floor) amphipods in the suborder Hyperiidea this is one of the dangers of everyday life. The genus Hyperiella can be found in the Southern Ocean, and one of their main predators are the icefishes (Nototheniidae). So what do you do when you are a small and quite tasty animal that is not a very fast swimmer and there are a lot of fishes out there to eat you?

Don´t panic!

Hyperiella antarctica with Spongiobranchaea australis (a and b) and Hyperiella dilatata with Clione limacina antarctica (c). Figure 2 Havermans et al 2018.

Two of the three Hyperiella-species have found a quite ingenious solution. They hitchhike with a group of other small slow-swimming pelagic animals – pteropods. Pteropods (from the greek “wing-foot”) are sea snails (gastropods). Hyperiella australis pics up a life with Spongiobranchaea australis, and Hyperiella dilatata hangs out with Clione limacina antarctica. Both pteropods are from the group we call Sea Angels (Gymnosomata), and in a way they are saving angels for the amphipods: the ice fish don´t eat these strange couples. Why?

It seems the pteropods have developed a chemical protection against predation. They obviously taste extremely bad, for observations of icefish trying to eat the hitchhiking amphipods together with the pteropods result in them both being spit out again. Most times, the fish would see what it thought was good food, and then swim away when they discovered what they were almost eating. Not so very strange, then, that Hyperiella are holding on to their colleagues for their life!

 

 

Clione limacina antarctica. Photo C Havermans, AWI.

It might not be hitchhiking after all, but rather kidnapping – or brute force. The amphipods hold on to the pteropods with their to-three hindmost pairs of legs, and keep the sea angel on their back – much like a backpack. Observations are that they are repositioning them there all the time – almost like kids running with bumpy backpacks on the way to school. They don´t even let go when the researchers preserve them!

Hyperiella antarctica with Spongiobranchaea australis backpack. Photo: C Havermans, AWI

What this treatment do to the pteropods we still don´t know. But it does not seem they are able to eat very much when being held hostage as chemical defence-backpacks. That may not be the biggest problem in a short time-scale – their Arctic relatives have been shown to survive almost a year without food. What happens when they really get hungry we do not know. The amphipods are still able to feed, even though the pteropods can be up to 50% of the amphipod size. Maybe the pteropods do some of the swimming for the amphipods?

This behaviour is much more common close to the coast than in the open sea: close to the McMurdo area, 75% of the Hyperiella were seen hitching with a pteropod. Now we know that this pairing can be found in the open sea, and maybe is it more common that we think. It is not the first thing we have looked for so far when examining samples. When the University Museum of Bergen joins the Norwegian Polar Institute and the Institute of Marine Research to the Southern Ocean in the austral autumn this coming March, we will make a special effort to search for such collaborators.

Anne Helene


Literature

Havermans C, Hagen W, Zeidler W, Held C, Auel H 2018. A survival pack for escaping predation in the open ocean: amphipod-pteropod associations in the Southern Ocean. Marine Biodiversity https://doi.org/10.1007/s12526-018-0916-3

McClintock JB, Janssen J 1990. Pteropod abduction as a chemical defence in a pelagic Antarctic amphipod. Nature 346:424-426.

 

 

Door #9: To catch an Amphipod

As many of you might have read earlier in this blog, the projects NorAmph and Hypno have been regularly sampling in Hjeltefjorden for the past year. As a part of my master thesis, I was lucky to be able to come with! My thesis will be about amphipods and their seasonal variety in Hjeltefjorden, which is super exiting!

The RP-sled used for the sampling.

For each time we go out, we sample with a RP-sled, a WP3 plankton net and we collect CTD data. The samples from the RP-sled will be used for my thesis and other projects if we find something interesting. During the last year we collected samples 9 times, which has given us some great days out at sea!

During these cruises we have had lots of fun! We have had cake, snacks and regularly done yoga on deck! We have been mostly lucky with the weather (except for our original cruise day in February, which had to be moved due to lots of wind, which you can read about here: Solskinnstokt)

 

A great view from our February cruise, with a clear blue sky and no wind! (Photo: K. Kongshavn)

We have been mostly lucky in getting great samples!

Lots of exciting material to get our hands on! (photo: AH Tandberg)

But sometimes not so lucky…

It is not easy to be a happy master student when the codend is almost empty… (Photo: AH Tandberg)

In October we had our last cruise, which was a great end to a year of sampling! We were not as lucky with the weather this time, but the samples look very nice. We also had cake to celebrate the last cruise day!

A great view in Hjeltefjorden (Photo: C. Østensvig)

Coffee breaks on deck are always important! (Photo: AH Tandberg)

It is somewhat sad to be done with the sampling, but with all the material collected, it is time to hit the lab! With all the samples, I sort out and identify all the amphipods I find. So far, I have found lots of cool amphipods, and I am starting to see some patterns in the material.

Here are some of the Amphipods I have found. All photos: K. Kongshavn

My work in the lab is far from done, and I am excited to look for new cool amphipods and hopefully find something interesting in their seasonal variation.

-Christine

Door # 8: The DNA-barcode identification machine

In a previous blog post I explained briefly how DNA-sequences are produced for the DNA-barcode library. Now I will show how the BOLD database can be utilized to identify species from sequences.

Some of the equipment used to produce DNA-sequences in our lab.

Say you have access to a lab that can produce DNA-sequences and you have a sample of a crab you cannot identify because some of the key characters are on body parts that have been broken and lost. You produce a DNA-sequence from the “barcode-gene” and open the identification engine in BOLDSYSTEMS.org.

Internet start window for the BOLD identification engine where you paste your unknown DNA sequence into the bottom blank window. (Click on picture to expand)

Having submitted your query to BOLD, you wait for some seconds for results. In this example BOLD returned the following window.

Example of results from a query to the BOLD identification engine. (Click on picture to expand)

The results window lists the top matches in terms of sequence similarity, and in this case we have 100 % similarity match with the crab Atelecyclus rotundatus. There is also an option to display the results as a TREE BASED IDENTIFICATION. When clicking on the option tab, the closest hits are clustered in a so-called Neighbour Joining Tree. In the window below you see parts of the tree where our unknown DNA-sequence has been joined to a group of other sequences in BOLD that have been deposited as Atelecyclus rotundatus barcodes by other biodiversity labs.

Part of TREE BASED IDENTIFICATION of an unknown DNA sequence (in red). We see that the unknown clusters with with other sequence of Atelecyclus rotundatus. The nearest neighbour branch is Atelecyclus undecimdentatus. (Click on picture to enlarge.)

The species page for Atelecyclus rotundatus gives us more information about this crab and about its records in BOLD.

Species page for the individual we identified with the BOLD identification engine. (Click picture to enlarge.)

If in fact your sequence was produced from an unknown crab, this identification seems convincing. But sometimes you should think twice about search results, and this will be the topic of a future blog post.

-Endre

Door # 6: The key to the question

We often say that without knowing the species you examine, you really can’t know a lot about whatever it is you are examining. But how do you get from knowing for example “this is an amphipod” to knowing “this is Amphilochoides serratipes”?

Three different Amphilochidae from Iceland

Most researchers would usually stop at the “this is an amphipod”-stage, and many specialists  would call it a day at “this amphipod belongs to the familily Amphilochidae”. but then there are the one or two researchers who have gone on to specialise in this family (I think there are three of us in the world at the moment).

But finally – those days are over!
As a special gift on this Nicholaus-day when all German colleagues get a special gift from St Nicholaus (who is Father Christmas) we present to all of you – regardless of nationality or faith:

The interactive and illustrated key to the NorthEast Atlantic species of Amphilochidae

The key is a product of a collaboration between the NorAmph-project and the German-lead IceAGE project that examines benthic animals around Iceland, and the technical production and web-hosting of the key is from the Norwegian Taxonomy Initiative (Artsprosjekt) (who – we have to say – also have financed the NorAmph-project!) Hurrah for a great collaboration!

Figure 14 from Tandberg et al

You might still wonder what an Amphilochid amphipod is?

The family Amphilochidae are amphipods that are quite small (1-6mm in length) and quite stout. They are not extremely good swimmers, though much of that can be from their small size – and from their short appendages. They can be found all over the world, and are common at many depths in our cold waters. Even though they are small and easily overlooked, they sometimes occur in relatively large numbers, and can contribute significantly to both the biomass and diversity of a sample. They have been found on hydrothermal vents at the southern part of the Mid-Atlantic ridge, and some have been found as loose associates of other invertebrates.

Also – they are quite cute, don’t you think?  Good luck with the identification!

-Anne Helene

Literature:

Brix S et. al. 2018. Amphipod family distributions around Iceland. ZooKeys 731: 1-53. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.731.19854

Tandberg AHS, Vader W 2018. On a new species of Amphilochus from deep and cold Atlantic waters, with a note on the genus Amphilochopsis (Amphipoda, Gammaridea; Amphilochidae). ZooKeys 731: 103-134. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.731.19899

Guest researcher: Marla

Marla, who has been visiting several times to work on our amphipod collections, sent us this “travelogue” from her longest stay. In her own words:

I am a third year PhD student, and my project is shared between the University of Southampton at the National Oceanography centre and the Natural History Museum in London. I am supervised by Dr Tammy Horton (NOC), Dr Andrew Gates (NOC), Dr Phil Fenberg (UoS), Dr Miranda Lowe (NHM), and Dr Andrea Waschenbach (NHM).

I spent 8 glorious weeks in Bergen working with the invertebrate collections at the Department of Natural History of the University Museum of Bergen (UiB) together with the wonderful Anne Helene Tandberg and Endre Willassen. Also a massive thank you to Katrine Kongshavn, Morten Stokkan, Jon Kongsrud, Luis Felipe Martell Hernández, Aino Hosia, Tom Alvestad, Nataliya Budaeva, Manuel Malaquias, Louise Lindbloom, and Kenneth Meland for your help in the lab and support with my project and lunchtime conversations!

I arrived to Bergen mid- September just in time for the 2017 UCI Road World Championships! As a huge fan (and very amateur road cyclist) this was such a bonus to have the chance to see it. The race took over the town, and one late afternoon Anne Helene and I climbed half-way up Mount Fløyen to watch the men’s Time Trial. The sun was out, the streets were packed, atmosphere was electric and we had prime seats–I couldn’t wait to see Chris Frome (GB) and Tom Dumoulin (NL) cycling in action.  It was a fantastic afternoon!

Anne Helene and I enjoying the afternoon UCI race from our prime viewing spot

The classic road graffiti to show support to the cyclists. Here Tom Dumoulin is forever immortalized on Mount Fløyen.

Tom Dumoulin won first place in the men’s Time Trial, Chris Froome took third.

Back in the lab…

I was working with amphipods from the family Phoxocephalidae from the Western African Waters, focussing particularly on the amphipods from the sub-family Harpiniinae [crustacea; Amphipoda; Phoxocephalidae; Harpiniinae]. Phoxocephalid amphipods are highly speciose and abundant in deep sea sediments globally. Species identity is critical to understanding mechanisms driving observed biodiversity patterns and to asses community change. The aim of the project while in Bergen was to use both DNA barcoding and traditional morphological taxonomic approaches in order to create a robust library of Phoxocephalidae species from the poorly known West African waters. Large scale projects such as Marine Invertebrates of West Africa (MIWA) provide the perfect opportunity for collaborative work! More about the MIWA-project can be found here.

The MIWA project submitted over 2700 tissue samples from over 600 morphospecies for DNA barcode sequencing, including Crustaceans, Echinoderms, Molluscs and Polychaetes. Out of these, 45 samples were from the family Phoxocephalidae, the target taxa. Working with Dr Anne Helene Tandberg and Prof Endre Willassen, the sequenced MIWA Phoxcephalid voucher specimens were dissected and mounted as permanent microscope slides to morphologically score them. Later, the phylogenetic analysis based on all molecular and morphological characters will be compared. Each appendage was photographed on the modular (Leica CTR6000) microscope and the images were stacked, resulting in incredible photos!

Harpinia abyssi P7. Photo: M. Spencer

As a result of some of this work, we think that we have identified 4 new species to the genus of Basuto. The genus was previously monotypic, with the type-locality in South Africa. Now we are awaiting the holotypes and paratypes to arrive so that we can compare. Together with Anne Helene, Endre Willassen and Tammy Horton, I am currently writing my first publication, formally describing these specimens as new species. Stay tuned for further updates!

Basuto specimen pereopod 5. Photo: M. Spencer

Basuto specimen Mandible, Photo: M. Spencer

At work in the DNA lab

Working with Anne Helene within the molecular biology labs at the University of Bergen, I had the chance to develop taxon specific primers and PCR conditions for the Harpiniinae MIWA specimens which were not successfully sequenced with the Universal primers. As a starting point, an additional 13 MIWA specimens had tissue extracted for DNA, and then dissected and permanent slides were made in order to morphologically score them. Each appendage was photographed and the images stacked. The primers and PCR conditions are a work in progress; however, this was a very successful trip resulting in a lot of data to analyse!

I also had the chance to explore the fantastic city of Bergen! I absolutely loved my time spent here- I generated a lot of data and learned so many new skills and new insight into my PhD project. Win-win! I look forward to returning again one day.

-Marla