Category Archives: Current projects

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

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. 

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

 

Sea slugs of Norway Instagram: @seaslugsofnorway

Sea slugs of Norway Facebook: www.facebook.com/seaslugsofnorway


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

Sampling together in the Sognefjord

From 09 to 13th of May different artsdatabanken projects within the Natural history museum joined efforts during a fieldwork trip to Hjartholm located at the Sognefjord.

The Sognefjord is an interesting fjord for sampling as it is the largest and deepest fjord in Norway and the second largest in the world! This often results in some unique fauna, especially at greater depths. Therefore HYPCOP (Hyper benthic copepods), NORHYDRO (Norwegian Hydrozoa), AnDeepNor (Annelids from the Deep Norwegian Waters) and Hardbunnsfauna (rocky shore invertebrates) travelled toward the small town Hjartholm were we set up laboratory and living space for sampling and processing fresh material.

Hjartholm is located towards the exit of the Sognefjord. From here we would do shallow and deep sampling with help of Research Vessel Hans Brattstrøm

Team members from different projects, Norhydro, HYPCOP, hardbunnsfauna and AndeepNor in front of the boathouse that was transformed into a lab for the occasion

Boathouse communal area turned into a temporary lab

AnDeepNor was on the quest of collecting marine bristle worms (annelida) from the deepest part of the Sognefjord, about 1000m deep.

AnDeepNor researchers from ltr; Miguel Angel Mecca, Tom Alvestad, Nataliya Budaeva, Jon Kongsrud

Jon Kongsrud with the grab

This would be done with the help of research vessel Hans Brattstrøm and a so-called grab. A grab is a device that looks like a clamshell made out of heavy metal. It would be dropped in the water open, and once touching the bottom it would close and grab soft bottom sample.

Unfortunately, on the first day some important machinery for collecting deep samples broke after the third grab. And therefore, AnDeepNor was stuck with only 3 samples for the remaining of the fieldwork days. The good news however is that they did find a great diversity of worms in the only 3 grab samples they found.

 

Project leader Nataliya with in her hand a plate with clipped tissues from her worms

Once the worms were sorted, preliminary identified and catalogued small tissue was clipped of 96 specimens for barcoding at the University of Bergen DNA laboratory.

All the results of this will be publicly available at the end of the AnDeepNor project in October this year. We are looking forward to their results!

 

 

 

 

NorHydro has been working hard on collecting hydrozoan samples from different localities in Norway.

NorHydro researchers from ltr Luis Martell and Joan Soto Angel

This time they were more than happy to join the possibility of getting some seriously deep samples from the Sognefjord. With their plankton net they went sampling up to 1200m, which resulted in some beautiful specimens

Left: Margelopsis hartlaubii, right: juvenile Melicertum octocostatum

They also took the opportunity to collect some shallow-water benthic hydroids, just in front of the lab where there was a small dock for boats. In the lab they set up a photo-studio to make some beautiful macro images of their collected specimens for everyone to enjoy.

Left: Laomedea flexuosa; top right: Bougainvillia muscus; bottom right: Eudendrium sp.

HYPCOP (Picture 9. Team HYPCOP with ltr Francisca Carvahlo, Cessa Rauch and Jon Kongsrud) focus this time was mainly shallow water around the Sognefjord by snorkelling (picture 10. Sampling for Hardbunnsfauna and HYPCOP by means of snorkelling), we sampled from 4 different stations and as you can guess, there were copepods in all of them.

Team HYPCOP with ltr Francisca Carvahlo, Cessa Rauch and Jon Kongsrud

Sampling for Hardbunnsfauna and HYPCOP by means of snorkelling

However, some locations had definitively more diversity than others, this mostly had to do with the site being more exposed, or whether there was a lot of freshwater run-off from land that would influence the sites salinity. The fresh collected copepods were photographed and are now ready to be prepared for barcoding in order to determine the species. And although small, they can be very beautiful as well, just not always easy to photograph such active critters.

Even though we had to deal with some gear equipment failure, we still managed to have a very productive week of sampling, in which all the participating projects got their hands-on valuable specimens from the amazing Sognefjord!

Interested to follow up with these projects? You can find us across all social media platforms (Twitter, Instagram and Facebook @hardbunnsfauna, @planetcopepod #NorHydro #AnDeepNor), see you there!

-Cessa, Nataliya & Joan

On the Hunt for Tiny Polyps

Two weeks ago I had the chance to go field-sampling on the research vessel Hans Brattström. The sampling this time was focused on a broad range of marine invertebrates ranging from Hydrozoans, Bryozoans, Polychaetes, Phoronids and Brachiopods. I was especially on the hunt for polyps of the family Hydractiniidae (Cnidaria: Hydrozoa) that grow preferably on shells of molluscs or hermit-crabs. I was happy to look for new specimens for NorHydro and my master’s project, especially since opportunities to go field-sampling have been rare due to the covid-19 restrictions. The area of Bergen has been sampled quite well for the NorHydro project, but I was especially looking for rare species or species that haven’t been sampled before.

The first sampling for NorHydro this season – and with great conditions! Picture Credit: Lara Beckmann

To collect hydractiniids, we took bottom samples using a triangular dredge and a grab sampler. When the dredge gets back on board, the sample gets sorted on a large table on deck. Then the detailed search begins, and every stone and cranny gets inspected. The polyps I was looking for can be tiny, ranging from less than 1 mm up to 8 mm. The substrates that they grow on vary in size and shape, it can be crabs, molluscs but also algae or stones, often not larger than a few centimeters. So it isn’t an easy task to find the polyps in a freshly collected sample. Luckily I found several conspicuous hermit crabs and also one snail that I took back to the museum. At first, I didn’t see the polyps – only under the microscope in the museum laboratory I was able to see that hydractiniid colonies were growing on the shells.

Video: A polyp colony of the species Podocoryna areolata (Family Hydractiniidae). The polyps were growing on the shell of a living mollusc, probably of the species Steromphala cineraria. Video Credit: Lara Beckmann

One colony of the species Podocoryna areolata was growing on the shell of a living mollusk. The mollusk provides a nice substrate because the movements of the snail provide the polyps with more opportunities to encounter food. Also, the colony is protected by the small wrinkles of the shells surface where the polyps can hide. The polyps of this species are super difficult to measure, but most are smaller than 0.5 mm. When disturbed, the polyps shrink to small blobs even smaller than this. When relaxed, they can extend a bit longer in size. Especially the tentacles reach out to get hold of any potential food that swims by, such as small crustaceans. This species releases medusae, which can frequently be found in the plankton in this area.

A single polyp of the same colony of Podocoryna areolata. Picture Credit: Lara Beckmann

On shells inhabited by hermit crabs of the species Pagurus bernhardus, I found several colonies of a yet unidentified species of the genus Podocoryna. This species is very commonly found as polyp almost along the entire Norwegian coast. I’m still studying the specimen to figure out the correct identification. Since there is a lot of confusion in the hydractiniid taxonomy, I need to combine genetic information and morphology to overcome the existing problems in their identification and naming. The colony was reproductive and medusa buds were growing on it. Interestingly the medusa of this species is rarely found in the plankton.

Polyps of the genus Podocoryna. On the right are parts of the grasping claws visible belonging to the hermit crab Pagurus bernhardus. Picture Credit: Lara Beckmann

All over the colony were medusa buds. These are growing medusae, which will be released in the water when they are mature. The medusae can do what the colony itself can’t: releasing eggs and sperm and thus reproduce sexually. Picture Credit: Lara Beckmann

Besides the polyps, I found several other organisms living with the colonies on the shells including Crustaceans, Nudibranchia, Foraminiferans and other hydroids. The shells provide a home for a diverse range of marine life and it resembles a tiny forest. But it is not all peace and harmony in there, the smallest amphipods were quickly munched by the Podocoryna polyps. Those, in turn, get eaten by nudibranchs, that crawl on the colonies and some species feed specifically on hydroid polyps.

Video: An amphipod that lives on top of the hermit crab shell, walking through the colony of Podocoryna polyps. Video Credit: Lara Beckmann

 

I didn’t find any more hydrozoan species that were interesting for NorHydro during the sampling trip (at least not while scanning with the bare eye). But, I want to show one more very common species around Bergen –Ectopleura larynx– just because it is such a nice-looking hydrozoan. It even was reproductive and released its larvae right into my petri-dish. The small bulbs that grow between the polyp tentacles contain the larvae, which are called actinula. They break free and swim around, swinging their tiny tentacles until they will settle on a piece of algae for example, and grow to a large colony again.

The species Ectopleura larynx is a common species at the Norwegian coast. On the left the released larvae, called actinula. On the right a polyp that usually grows in a large colonies with up to a hundred polyps. Picture Credit: Lara Beckmann

-Lara

You want to learn more about hydrozoans and why it is important to study them? Read more about it in my blog article for Ecology for the Masses: link.

Also, keep up with the activities of NorHydro here in the blog, on the project’s facebook page  and in Twitter with the hashtag #NorHydro.

Sun is out, scientists are out!

 

Staff engineer Lina Ljungfeldt with the Bladderwrack algae Fucus vesiculoses in Glesvær, Norway. Photo Bjarte Kileng

With few good weather windows here in the West coast we need to take the opportunity for collecting when it arises. Tuesday afternoon (27.04)  we took our chance to sample in Glesvær for some fresh copepods and Bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculoses) for researchers from the University of Trier.

The team consisted of staff engineer Lina Ljungfeldt, PhD student Justine Siegwald, Citizen scientists Bjarte Kileng and head engineer Cessa Rauch.

The Tuesday afternoon sampling team from ltr Lina Ljungfeldt, Cessa Rauch and Justine Siegwald. Photo BK

Picture of the photographer himself, citizen scientist Bjarte Kileng joining the expedition team. Photo Justine Siegwald

We chose Glesvær because we needed easy access to the shore with rockpools and lots of algae. Researchers from the University of Trier (Germany) are collecting Fucus vesiculoses from different parts in the world to study the community of animals and bacteria that are associated with the algae. We were happy to help out while also collecting fresh copepods for HYPCOP (@planetcopepod).

We needed 20 individual algae pieces that needed to be cut from the substrate and any epifauna big enough to the naked eye had to be removed.

Justine Siegwald picking out individual Fucus vesiculoses algae from the rocky shore. Photo BK

After collecting the algae in the green baskets we needed to rinse the algae and put them in bags afterwards. The algae were transported back to the museum on ice and stored in the freezer waiting for their final journey to Germany.

Cessa Rauch rinsing the algae, dry suit came in good use! Photo JS

HYPCOP member Cessa Rauch went along and collected some copepods from the beautiful rockpools.

Cessa collecting copepods from the rockpools in Glesvær. Photo BK

Rockpools are great source for easy benthic copepod collecting. When low tide leaves the rockpools exposed, many small marine organisms stay ‘trapped’ in the cracks of the rocky shores. Just sampling some small algae and the water itself contains many benthic organisms like our copepods. The copepods, along with the algae, were taken back to the museum and sorted based on their morphotype. These fresh specimens will later be used for DNA extraction and barcoding.

If you wish to see how beautiful benthic copepods are than don’t forget to follow @planetcopepod on Twitter https://twitter.com/planetcopepod and Instagram https://www.instagram.com/planetcopepod/ or become a member of or Facebook group, for the latest updates! https://www.facebook.com/groups/planetcopepod

-Cessa