Category Archives: Current projects

Bryozoan barcoding

Haeckel Bryozoa.jpg
By Ernst Haeckel – Kunstformen der Natur (1904), plate 23: Bryozoa (see here, here and here), Public Domain, Link You can also find the whole, gorgeous book by Haeckel here, courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library

I have spent the past week and a half getting acquainted with a rather odd – yet beautiful – group of animals, the Bryozoa, moss animals. These colony-forming, mostly marine, animals are small as individuals, but the colonies can grow quite large. Globally there are around 5000 extant species recorded, with a further 15 000 species in the fossil record. We have colleagues in Oslo who work on both the fossil and the current fauna to better understand micro- and macroevolution, you can read more about that here (og her, på norsk).

Sampling site of barcoded Bryozoans in the BOLD database

Sampling site of barcoded Bryozoans in the BOLD database

This is the first attempt at barcoding bryozoans through NorBOL, and it shows (map above); hopefully we will get more dots on the map for our region soon!

This may not be an easy group to get genetic barcodes from, though – I’ve been in communication with several of the (wonderfully helpful!) experts in the field, and the consensus seems to be that getting a barcode (from the region defined as THE barcode, the 5’ end of COI) will be difficult, and that we may anticipate “..a colourful array of contaminants, as well as nuclear mitochondrial pseudogenes”. Yay. Well, we won’t know until we try!

Together with colleagues from the Natural History Collections in Gothenburg we have assembled a plate of tissue samples from Swedish and Norwegian bryozoan that I will send to the CCDB facilities for sequencing next week. We have an impressive 58 different species (1-3 specimens of each) included on the plate, as well as a few specimens that are (not yet) identified to species.

n344_w1150

Bicellariella ciliata for barcoding

Bicellariella ciliata for barcoding

The colonies can be branching, encrusting, lacelike, lumpy…and at times pretty close to invisible! I’ve had to spend some time looking for good illustrations to know what to sample from… there are often multiple species in a jar, as well as other animals – hopefully I managed.

The specimens on the plate

The specimens on the plate

We’re treating this as a trial plate: is it possible to barcode museum material of bryozoans through the general pipeline, or will we need to get creative?

I’ll make a new post once the verdict is in – let’s hope for surprisingly high success rates!


Some further reading:

Lee et al 2011: DNA Barcode Examination of Bryozoa (Class: Gymnolaemata) in Korean SeawaterKorean J. Syst. Zool. Vol. 27, No. 2: 159-163, July 2011 ISSN 2233-7687
DOI 10.5635/KJSZ.2011.27.2.159

Wikipedia has a nice post on Bryozoa

 

Guest Researcher: Joan

Dr Joan Soto from the University of Valencia (Spain), visited us at the museum during August/September 2017 to collaborate with HYPNO on the mysterious issue of linking hydroids and their medusae. We asked him about his experience, and got the following:

Joan, ready to go jelly-hunting under the blue sky!

Joan, ready to go jelly-hunting under the blue sky!

Imagine a caterpillar and its butterfly described as different species by the scientific community. Now think on how confusing it would be if everybody kept calling them with different names over centuries. Well, this is the case of many hydroids and their corresponding medusae!

Hydrozoans, together with other well-known animals such as corals, anemones and jellyfishes, are included within the Phylum Cnidaria. Most hydrozoans are metagenetic, which means that they alternate between asexual (the polyp, usually benthic) and sexual (medusae, usually pelagic) stages in their life. Since the early works by Linnaeus in the mid-18th century, the very first scientists who showed interest in hydrozoans specialized primarily in a single stage of their life cycle, often neglecting the other, and even those courageous scientists who accepted the challenge of studying both groups were unable to discover the correspondence between such different animals as the polyp and the medusa.

Nowadays, in the era of molecular tools, new techniques are revealing that things are not what they seem, neither do they look like what they really are. Thanks to project HYPNO, several links between polyps and medusae have been found, with the subsequent adjustment in their ID (a.k.a. their scientific name), but that is not all! New evidences are bringing to light that some hydrozoans, even if they are morphologically identical to each other, in reality belong to different species, a fact known as “cryptic species”.

Both of these phenomena may be involved in the taxonomic confusion surrounding the hydroid Stegopoma plicatile and the medusa Ptychogena crocea, the former a worldwide reported species, the latter a Norwegian endemism. How can a medusa be so restricted in distribution while its hydroid lives everywhere? Perhaps now we know the answer thanks to molecular tools: Stegopoma plicatile may represent a complex of species, hiding a misunderstood diversity, and similar S. plicatile hydroids may produce different Ptychogena medusae. In other words, perhaps the polyp does not have such a wide distribution, and records from other parts of the world should be re-examined in detail, paying special attention to the tiniest and easily overlooked details of its morphology. But of course this is a job only for very patient detectives…

Hydroids of Stegopoma plicatile (like this one) from all over the world look very similar to each other, but may produce very different medusae.

Hydroids of Stegopoma plicatile (like this one) from all over the world look very similar to each other, but may produce very different medusae.

These beautiful medusae of Ptychogena crocea collected in Korsfjord were sexually mature. You can see the four gonads as folded masses of yellow tissue in each jellyfish.

These beautiful medusae of Ptychogena crocea collected in Korsfjord were sexually mature. You can see the four gonads as folded masses of yellow tissue in each jellyfish.

Thus, this was the objective of my recent visit to the Bergen University Museum. An outstanding month surrounded by enthusiastic scientists, amazing landscapes, restricted doses of sun, and upcoming challenges: we trust that current and future analyses combining both molecular and morphological taxonomy will lead to settle the correspondence of Stegopoma hydroids with other Ptychogena-like medusae from all over the globe, or even to the description of new species to science!

Deploying the net with help of the crew from RV "Hans Brattstrøm"

Deploying the net with help of the crew from RV “Hans Brattstrøm”

Team-work during the sampling makes everything a lot easier!

Team-work during the sampling makes everything a lot easier!

The amazing crane of the RV "Hans Brattstrøm" allowed us to efficiently hunt for jellyfish at the fjords.

The amazing crane of the RV “Hans Brattstrøm” allowed us to efficiently hunt for jellyfish at the fjords.

This is what our samples look like when we finally get to look at them on board

This is what our samples look like when we finally get to look at them on board

-Joan

Getting back in business

The blog has been quiet over summer – but we’ve been busy!

The #AnnelidaCourse2017 came to an end, and happy participants went back to their home institutions with a lot of new knowledge, a increased contact network, and many new friends.

a)Students working in the lab; b) Picking interesting animals from the samples onboard R/V Hans Brattström; c) Animals to be studied; d) Group photo of most of the participants; e) Detailed study and drawing of a specimen; f) Field work onboard R/V Aurelia Fotos: K.Kongshavn (a,b,e), G. Kolbasova (c), G.Jolly (d), S. Rosli (f)

a) Students working in the lab; b) Picking interesting animals from the samples onboard R/V Hans Brattström;
c) Animals to be studied; d) Group photo of most of the participants; e) Detailed study and drawing of a specimen; f) Field work onboard R/V Aurelia Fotos: K.Kongshavn (a,b,e), G. Kolbasova (c), G.Jolly (d), S. Rosli (f)

Heaps (HEAPS!) of samples have been cataloged and labeled, DNA-sequencing has completed on the shipment we sent in June and we’re working on analyzing the results, and samples from the cruises we particpated on have and are being sorted.

The next shipment of animals to be barcoded through NorBOL is being assembled – of marine invertebrates from our collections, one plate of polychaetes and one plate of isopods have been prepared, and we plan on completing a few more plates before shipping in October.

Isopods for barcoding - these have all been collected and identified by the MAREANO project. Photo: K.Kongshavn

Isopods for barcoding – these have all been collected and identified by the MAREANO project. Photo: K.Kongshavn

We will also get contributions from several of the Norwegian Taxonomy Initiative projects (Artsprosjekt) that are running, and a plate with insect samples made by the students of BIO233 (I was down there today giving them an introduction to barcoding, NorBOL and the BOLD database) – hopefully we’ll get good results on all of it.

-Katrine

Happy Polychaete Day!

For the third time, we’re celebrating the wonderful world of worms with an International Polychaete Day!

Polychaetes – bristle worms – are segmented worms, mainly marine, that live from the intertidal down to the abyssal zone. There’s more than 12 000 species of them world wide, and they can be active swimmers or live in burrows, be hunters, scavengers, carnivores or herbivores, filter feeders, or parasites – the group is old, and display a wide varity of body shapes, life modes and colours.

Some of the wonderful worms that were collected during #AnnelidaCourse2017. From top left: Glyceridae, Syllidae, Spionidae, Cirratulidae, Phyllodocidae, Scalibregmatidae, Flabelligeridae, Polynoidae, Serpulidae and Cirratulidae

Some of the wonderful worms that were collected during #AnnelidaCourse2017. From top left: Glyceridae, Syllidae, Spionidae, Cirratulidae, Phyllodocidae, Scalibregmatidae, Flabelligeridae, Polynoidae, Serpulidae and Cirratulidae (photos & montage: K.Kongshavn)

The tradition started as a way to honour Kristian Fauchald’s memory, you can read more about that, and him, here: The 1st International Polychaete day (our blog post), and also in these two Storify collections of posts from all over the world on Twitter for the first year, and for the second.

The day itself is on July 1st (Kristian’s birthday), but we’re starting early this year since that falls on a Saturday.

As a University Museum, we are actively initiating, conducting and collaborating on research projects with colleagues from all over the world. Our scientific collections form the backbone of this research, and is constantly being added to – both by material we recive through collaboration with large scale programs such as the seabed mapping program MAREANO from Norwegian shelf areas and the collecting done by R/V Dr. Fritjof Nansen along the western coast of Africa,  but also through our own crusies, and participation on research cruises such as the ones run by SponGES and the Sognefjorden project.

Here are a few recent snapshots from life at sea on the hunt for worms:

gjester-januar-2016

 

norbol logoThrough the Norwegian Barcode of Life (NorBOL) project, we are working on building a comprehensive library of genetic barcodes: short, species specific DNA sequences. Polychaetes are a focus group here, and so far over 3000 specimens from close to 700 species have been submitted from Norwegian and Arctic waters. We have also barcoded over 1000 specimens of African polychaetes through our MIWA-project (Marine Invertebrates of Western Africa).

A few weeks ago we hosted the (very!) International Course on Annelid Systematics, Morphology and Evolution at the marine biological station in Espegrend outside Bergen, where close to 40 worm researchers from 12 different countries gathered to teach and learn more about annelids.

Happy, hard working  students in the lab

Happy, hard working students in the lab

If you want to see what “polychaetologists” all over the world are coming up with to celebrate, you can click here to be taken to all Twitter posts tagged with #PolychaeteDay – feel free to contribute!

Fieldtrip to Taiwan: sampling on the periphery of the coral triangle

As part of our research programme to study “opisthobranch” molluscs in the Indo-West Pacific and understand the drivers of present diversity and biogeography on this region, we carried out a 3-week fieldtrip to Taiwan during May 2017. Taiwan is located in the China Sea north of the Philippines on the periphery of the “coral triangle”, the richest marine hotspot in the world contained within Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines.

Goniobranchus kuniei. Longdong, NE Taiwan

Goniobranchus kuniei. Longdong, NE Taiwan

Although situated outside this hotspot, Taiwan is influenced by the warm water Kuroshio Current flowing from the Philippines along the Luzon Strait and striking the southern part of Taiwan where it splits in two branches which drift northwards along both the eastern and western coastlines of the country. This confers to Taiwan tropical characteristics on its southern regions with occurrence of vast and diverse coral reef systems, while the northern coasts are of sub-tropical affinity with waters up to five degrees cooler. This combination of different oceanographic and climatic features, result on the occurrence of an extremely diverse marine fauna with different ecological requirements.

To cover different oceanographic regimes in the best possible way within our limited timeframe, we visited three regions for about one week each.

We first sampled along the southern tip of Taiwan at the Kenting National Park together with Professor Chung-Chi Hwang from the National University of Kaohsiung.

The sampling team-at-Kenting-left-to-right-Trond-Oskars-Wei-Ban-Jie-Chung-Chi-Hwang-Manuel-Malaquias

The sampling team at Kenting. left to right: Trond Oskars, Wei Ban Jie, Chung Chi Hwang, Manuel Malaquias

Here are some of the animals we encountered at Kenting:

Who are you?

Who are you?

The second week was dedicated to the off shore island of Penghu in the Strait of Taiwan where we have worked together with Professor Yen-Wei Chang and his students from the National Penghu University of Science and Technology.

A happy party of sea slug hunters in Penghu, Taiwan

A happy party of sea slug hunters in Penghu, Taiwan

The garage of our hostel in Penghu, transformed into a wet lab for a week

The garage of our hostel in Penghu, transformed into a wet lab for a week

Goniobranchus cf. sinensis

Goniobranchus cf. sinensis

Hypselodoris maritima

Hypselodoris maritima

A beautiful flatworm

A beautiful flatworm

Finally, we sampled on the NE coast along the Longdong area in collaboration with Dr Vincent Chen and Dr Wei-Ban Jie, the first an authority on Taiwanese coastal ecology and the latter the author of the book “Taiwan Nudibranchs”.

A glimpse of the beautiful waterscapes at Longdong, Taiwan

A glimpse of the beautiful waterscapes at Longdong, Taiwan

Phyllidia ocellata Longdong, NE Taiwan

Phyllidia ocellata Longdong, NE Taiwan

Thuridilla sp. Longdong, NE Taiwan

Thuridilla sp. Longdong, NE Taiwan

Halgerda carlsoni Longdong, NE Taiwan

Halgerda carlsoni Longdong, NE Taiwan

Shallow habitats between the tidal zone down to 30 m deep were surveyed for “opisthobranchs”, and at the end we estimate to have collected a staggering 140 species.

The samples are now under curation and will soon be integrated in the systematic collections of the Natural History Museum of Bergen, becoming available for scientific study.

-Manuel Malaquias, Natural History Museum of Bergen, UiB

Meeting a famous gelatinous neighbour: Bathykorus bouilloni

Every now and then, a hydrozoan species will make the headlines because of the problems it creates for humans in a particular location. Hydrozoan jellyfish may bloom unexpectedly, transforming the water into a gelatinous soup, stinging people and fish in the process, while some hydroids have a tendency togrow  massively in places where they are not wanted. There are others that end up in the news because they produce some unusual protein, or have a peculiar life cycle that could lead to important findings in the fields of medicine or ecology.

Then there is Bathykorus bouilloni, a hydrozoan jelly that has gotten some media attention due to its resemblance to an extremely famous movie character.

This is the original photograph by of a live specimen included in the description of the species, next to a pic of its look-alike. Photo of the jelly: Kevin Raskoff

This is the original photograph of a live specimen included in the description of the species, next to a pic of its look-alike. Photo of the jelly: Kevin Raskoff

This jellyfish was described in 2010 by Dr. Kevin Raskoff, who gave it its appropriate name. Bathykorus is a combination of Bathy (from bathus, meaning depth or deep in Greek) and korus (also from Greek, meaning helmet), and it refers to the deep-sea habitat of the species, as well as to the helmet-like shape of the bell (like that of an intergalactic villain). The word bouilloni in the name of this critter is a tribute to Dr. Jean Bouillon (1926-2009), one of the most prolific authors in Hydrozoan biology in the 20th century.

The species has been known to science only for some years, and indeed very few people may have seen it alive, but this does not necessarily mean that it is an uncommon animal: in fact, it may be extremely abundant in some places and is perhaps one of the most common species living at certain depths in the Central Arctic Ocean.

Caption: the peach-coloured spots in this medusa are most likely the remnants of its last meal. Photo: Aino Hosia

The peach-coloured spots in this medusa are most likely the remnants of its last meal. Photo: Aino Hosia

The wide circular mouth of this animal (a characteristic shared with many other jellyfish in the Order Narcomedusae) is best seen from above. Photo: Aino Hosia

The wide circular mouth of this animal (a characteristic shared with many other jellyfish in the Order Narcomedusae) is best seen from above. Photo: Aino Hosia

We at the HYPNO project are happy to have found this charismatic species off Svalbard, and even more so when it was possible to barcode it through NorBOL!

-Luis


References

Antsulevich, A. E. (2015). Biogeographic and faunistic division of the Eurasian Polar Ocean based on distributions of Hydrozoa (Cnidaria). Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 95(08): 1533-1539.

Raskoff, K. A. (2010). Bathykorus bouilloni: a new genus and species of deep-sea jellyfish from the Arctic Ocean (Hydrozoa, Narcomedusae, Aeginidae). Zootaxa 2361(1): 57-67.

Alien species

Collaborative work between the University of Rostock and the Natural History Museum of Bergen

Prof Wolfgang Wranik (yellow coat) sampling in 2015

Prof Wolfgang Wranik (yellow coat) sampling in 2015

Professor Wolfgang Wranik from the University of Rostock in Germany has visited the Natural History Museum during the 13-14th of June to work on a recently detected invasion of an American species of haminoid gastropods observed in southern Scandinavia and the western Baltic Sea.

The species is apparently already reproducing and established in the area, but it is unknown when and how did it make is way across the Atlantic.

A combination of DNA and fine morphological data using scanning electron microscopy is being employed to compare specimens from both side of the Atlantic and confirm the identity of the European specimens.

Animal from Tjärnö, Sweden observed in January 2017.

Animal from Tjärnö, Sweden observed in January 2017.

Global warming is facilitating the spread of southern species into higher latitudes, and the role of shipping and aquaculture activities in re-shaping the distribution of many marine species is well documented. Among haminoids there is fear that a Pacific species established in the Mediterranean Sea since the 1990s (Haminoea japonica) is already displacing the native fauna of molluscs, which raises concerns about the possible impact of the US haminoid in our local environments. 

Manuel Malaquias, Natural History Museum of Bergen, UiB

Update from the Annelida-course

20170609_100827

As told last week, we are currently hosting the international course on Annelid Systematics, Morphology and Evolution at the University of Bergen’s field station. Here’s a little update of what we have been up to since the previous post:

The days are pretty packed, with lectures, sampling, and lab work – thankfully both students and teachers are enjoying the work, and the mood in the lab is sunny (even if the Bergen “summer” is somewhat…fickle these days). We have covered a multitude of research topics, methods,  habitats, and annelid groups so far, with still more to come.

Happy, hard working  students in the lab

Happy, hard working students in the lab

"summer" sampling - we did get very nice samples!

“summer” sampling – we did get very nice samples!

Back in the lab, Torsten explaining todays exercises

Back in the lab, Torsten explaining todays exercises

Mixing the solution to get the tiny annelids out

Mixing the solution to get the tiny annelids out

The jaws of a small Ophryotrocha

Pointing out the jaws of a small Ophryotrocha

We’ll keep blogging from the from the course, so check back!

You can also get some glimpses of the exciting world of Worm researchers (!) by checking the tag #annelidacourse2017 on Twitter (you don’t need an account to do that, just click the link).

International Course on Annelid Systematics, Morphology and Evolution

The two-week long International Course on Annelid Systematics, Morphology and Evolution is up and running at the Espegrend Marine Biological Station!

The course is held by the University Museum of Bergen in cooperation with the Moscow State University and ForBio (Research School in Biosystematics). It is sponsored by SPIRE (Strategic Programme for International Research and Education) and SIU (Norwegian Centre for International Cooperation in Education). More info about the course can be found here.

Twenty students and eighteen course organizers and instructors from Norway, Russia and 10 more countries are participating in the course, which is being held in the University of Bergen’s marine research station at Espegrend.

lectures

Conrad (top) and Ken giving presentations

The course has started with a lecture on basic concepts in phylogenetics and evolution following by Endre Willassen, followed by the talks on phylogeny of Annelida by Ken Halanych (Auburn University) and Conrad Helm (Sars Centre).

boat

R/V Hans Brattstrøm, on the road With sampling gear, and enthusiastic sorting in the lab

We have been samplingwith both R/V Hans Brattstrøm and the smaller boat Aurelia in several benthic biotopes in the vicinity of the station, and have collected plenty of serpulids and siboglinids among other worm families.

The first laboratory session focused on Sabellida and Siboglinidae and were taught by Maria Capa (NTNU), Nadya Rimskaya-Korsakova (MSU) and Glafira Kolbasova (MSU). Nadya has brought few large vestimentiferans from the Moscow collection and the students got the opportunity to look at famous hydrothermal vent tubeworms.

Samples-both brought from Russia, and caught locally - the live specimens are stored in the cold room , and we suffer a little when we og to get them..!

Samples-both fixated specimens brought from Russia, and live ones caught locally – the live specimens are stored in the cold room , and we suffer a little when we og to get them..!

We’ll be blogging more from the from the course, so check back! You can also get some glimpses of the exciting world of Worm researchers by checking the tag #annelidacourse2017 on Twitter.

Congratulations to our latest PhD!

Freshly minted PhD!  (photo: Kenneth F. Bosch)

Freshly minted PhD!
(photo: Kenneth F. Bosch)

Andrea successfully defended her Ph.D. thesis “Dietary specialization and molecular phylogeny of the family Aglajidae (Cephalaspidea: Gastropoda) with species delimitation analysis and biogeography of two genera from the clade Chelidonura sensu lato” earlier today. She was supervised by Manuel A.E. Malaquias from the Department of Natural History, UM, and Henrik Glenner from the Department of Biology.

You can read more about her work here (in Norwegian)

Congratulations and all the best wishes from us!

Below are photos of some of the species, if you are wondering how they look (pics by Manuel)