Category Archives: Current projects

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

 

 

Copepod girls!

Copepod girls; Cessa Rauch (left) and Francisca Carvalho (right) working on copepods, photo Katrine Kongshavn).

International Woman’s Day was on 8th of March and this coincided this year with the start of a great fieldwork trip with an (almost) girl only expedition team!

Multiple research projects headed towards Espegrend Marine Biological field station in Bergen, to spend the week collecting and sorting specimens. The group consisted of representatives of Hardbunnsfauna (rocky shore invertebrates @hardbunnsfauna), Norchitons (Norwegian chitons @norchitons) and HYPCOP (copepods @planetcopepod).

From ltr; HYPCOP (Cessa Rauch), Norchitons (Nina Mikkelsen), HYPCOP (Francisca Carvalho), Hardbunnsfauna (Katrine Kongshavn). Photo: Jon Kongsrud

The plan for the week was to have access to the research vessel Hans Brattström while also working from the field station on the mainland. This would give us very good opportunities for reaching different sampling habitats. But as always with fieldwork expect the unexpected; unfortunately, after day 1, our R/V Hans Brattström got motor problems, so the planned dredge sampling did not happen. It is good to be creative in those situations because we still managed to get a lot of sampling done by collecting at the piers where the research vessel was docked and in front of the research station itself.

View from the research station in Espegrend, photo Cessa Rauch.

Sampling from the pier in front of the research station, photo Francisca Carvalho

On one of the days (when the sun was out!) we took the small research boat from the field station to explore the habitats of the nearby islands and do some shallow sampling there.

Out sampling with the small boat, photo Cessa Rauch

Once we arrived at the island of Søre Egdholmen we needed to dock the small boat without a pier; rest assure this gave interesting scenarios with being half in the water while the rest of the team and the equipment was in the boat.

Docking the small boat without a pier, photo by F. Carvalho

Once on the island we started to collect lots of material; for copepods, especially shallow benthic ones, that is quite a simple task. The best way is to use a fine meshed net, like a plankton net, and grab a lot of substrate like algae, some sand and small gravel. A lot of species basically stick to the substrate and with the plankton net have no way to escape. By keeping the plankton net with substrate in a bucket with seawater the samples stay fresh the longest.  Back to the marine biological station we kept the freshly collected samples in tanks with good saltwater circulation (which the station has access to in the laboratories).

Well let me tell you, we had such nice samples off copepods, not only just the quantity (because with copepods that is never a real issue), but very diverse too.

A drop of copepods, rich diversity from Espegrend. Photo: Cessa Rauch

Every single morphotype was being documented while they were still alive to keep the colors intact.

Overview of the different morphotypes we collected

And then numbered, labeled and fixated in ethanol for the collection.

Copepod collection

The goal for HYPCOP this week was to collect and register fresh copepod samples for DNA barcoding.

Back in Bergen we brought our copepods to the laboratory for DNA barcoding.

Their DNA is, as we speak, on their way to the sequencing center in Canada to become part of the Barcode of Life Data System that eventually everyone will have access to. Curious to see what this platform is all about, check out http://www.barcodinglife.org.

Until next time! 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, see you there! https://www.facebook.com/groups/planetcopepod

-Cessa & Francisca

 

 

 

Sled test for copepods

R.P. sled onboard R/V. H. Brattström

Happy new year to everyone! We managed to start 2021 with a day at sea, testing the R.P. sled for collecting benthic copepods from greater depths . January 27 we went out with research vessel Hans Brattström, crew and research scientist Anne Helene Tandberg who also turns out to be a true sled expert! She would join HYPCOP to teach how to process the samples from the R.P. sled on the boat.

 

 

 

 

Anne Helene Tandberg (left) joining HYPCOP (Cessa Rauch right) for teaching how to use the sled.

But first, what is an R.P. sled and why is it such an important key in the collection of copepods? The R.P. sled is an epibenthic sampler. That means that it samples the epibenthic animals – the animals that live just at the top of the (soft) seafloor – and a majority of these are often small crustaceans. The “R.P.” in the name stands for Rothlisherg and Pearcy who invented the sled. They needed to collect the juveniles of species of pandalid shrimp that live on the sea bottom floor. These animals are very small so a plankton net was necessary to collect them; a ‘normal’ dredge would not quite cut the job. They needed a plankton net that could be dragged over the bottom without damaging the net or the samples and also would not accidently sample the water column (pelagic); and so, the R.P. sled was born. This sled was able to go deeper than 150m, sample more than 500m3 at the time and open and close on command which was a novelty in comparison to the other sleds that where used in those days (1977). The sled consists of a steel sled like frame that contains a box that has attached to it a plankton net with an opening and closing device. The sled is heavy, ca. 150kg, and therefore limits the vessel sizes that can operate it; the trawl needs to be appropriately equipped including knowledgeable crew. It is pulled behind the vessel at slow speed to make sure the animals are not damaged and to make sure it does not become too full of sediment that is whirled up.

 

 

Sieved animals from the decanting process

So off we went with r/v Hans Brattström pulling the heavy gear at ca. 700m depth with 1 knot and a bottom time of 10 minutes sampling the Krossfjorden close to Bergen. It was a beautiful day for it with plenty of sun and calm seas. The crew handled most of the sled, leaving sorting the samples up to HYPCOP under the guidance of Anne Helene. Which is not as straight forward as it may sound! The process of filtering the samples after collecting them from the sled is done by decanting, which you can see in this movie from an this blog (in Norwegian) from earlier.

Decanting set-up for R.P. sled samples

Decanting means separating 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.

Sieved animals from the decanting process

This all needs to be done with care as the animals are often very small and fragile. After collecting, the most time-efficient and best preservation for the samples is to fixate them immediately with ethanol, so they don’t go bad while traveling back to the museum.

Fixating collected animals with technical ethanol

For collecting copepods we use a variety of methods; from snorkeling, to scoping up water and plankton nets, but for greater depths and great quality benthic samples the R.P. sled will be the most important method. We thank Anne Helene for her wisdom and enthusiasm that day for showing HYPCOP how to work with such interesting sampling method

 

We got some nice samples that will be sequenced very soon so we can label them appropriately. Although this first fieldwork trip off the year was mainly a teaching opportunity, we still managed to sample two stations with plenty of copepods and lots of other nice epibenthic crustacea, and Anne Helene is especially happy with all the amphipods she collected during the day. So for both of the scientists aboard this was a wonderful day – sunshine and lovely samples to bring back to the lab!

Some fresh copepods caught with the R.P. sled

– Cessa & Anne Helene


Follow HYPCOP @planetcopepod Instagram, for pretty copepod pictures https://www.instagram.com/planetcopepod/

Twitter, for copepod science news https://twitter.com/planetcopepod

Facebook, for copepod discussions https://www.facebook.com/groups/planetcopepod

See you there!

Brattström baby, HYPCOP goes offshore!

Last days of November HYPCOP spend two days (26th & 27th) offshore. We had the possibility to join some sampling efforts of NorHydro and others on the research vessel Hans Brattström.

Research Vessel Hans Brattström ready early in the morning, photo Cessa Rauch

This vessel is owned by the University of Bergen and operated by the institute of Marine Research (IMR, Havforskningsinstituttet).

H. Brattström is used 200 – 230 days a year along the West coast of Norway. It has the capability of operating different sampling gear, which makes it useful for multiple projects, studying a variety of marine organisms, from fish, to worms, jellyfish, and yes, also copepods!

On the first day HYPCOP joined NorHydro consisting of Luis Martell (UiB) and Joan Soto Angel (Sars):

NorHydro team and HYPCOP; from ltr Cessa Rauch, Luis Martell and Joan Soto Angel, photo Cessa Rauch

Plankton net being lowered in the ocean with some early morning sun, photo Cessa Rauch

 

 

The main sampling gear consisted of a large plankton net that was slowly dropped to 660m, 245m and 128m depth.  We sampled close to Bergen in Raunefjord, Krossfjord and Fanafjord.

Sampling for jellyfish needs to be done with caution, with the net going up to fast, the animals will just fall apart because of the pressure. So, a depth of 660m can take up to an hour and more before we could see the results.

 

 

Joan Angel Soto scanning the shore for birds, photo Cessa Rauch

During the waiting times we didn’t let our time go to waist, with binoculars we scanned the air and shore for birds.

After waiting for some time, the plankton net was brought back on board and contained, besides jellyfish and other pelagic planktonic dwellers, many million copepods. Mostly consisting of a few species. One of the species had a distinguishable blue egg sack, this is Paraeuchaeta norvegica (Boeck, 1872). This species is an active predator that feeds on other (smaller) copepods by rapidly jumping on them and catching their prey with their large maxillipeds (mouthparts).

 

 

The second day HYPCOP joined head engineer Bjørn Reidar Olsson (UiB) and PhD student Miguel Meca (UiB)

HYPCOP (Cessa Rauch left) joining Miguel Meca (middle) and Bjørn Olsson (right), photo Cessa Rauch

They were looking for shark teeth and polychaetes (marine worms) respectively and used the grab, which is perfect for benthic copepod sampling. The grab is basically a big metal clamshell that collects sediment from the seafloor. Working with grab samples gets dirty very quickly, you have to wash through the sediment to find your animals.

The grab with Cessa Rauch (HYPCOP left), Miguel Meca (middle) plus operator Bjørn Frode Grønevik (right), photo Bjørn R. Olsson

Most of the sediment was filtered out in order to find our copepod friends. Although less plentiful in comparison to the plankton net sampling the previous day, we still found some copepods hiding in the dirt. At moment of this writing, the the copepod species we collected have not be named yet, however, the last months we have been experimenting with barcoding the first batch of 60 different specimens. We had a 43% success rate. Usually, marine invertebrates have a success rate between 40 – 70%, so it was still within the margin, but not with a lot of enthusiasm. HYPCOP will spend the remainder of 2020 and the beginning of 2021 in the laboratory figuring out what the culprit of this low success rate could be.

For HYPCOP this will be the last blog before the Christmas holidays and the New Year. Therefore, we want to take the opportunity to wish you happy holidays and hope to see you around in 2021 with from us more copepod news to share!

-Cessa


Follow HYPCOP @planetcopepod

Instagram, for pretty copepod pictures https://www.instagram.com/planetcopepod/

Twitter, for copepod science news https://twitter.com/planetcopepod

Facebook, for copepod discussions https://www.facebook.com/groups/planetcopepod

See you there!

Fieldwork at Sletvik Fieldstation!

From Monday 12th of October till Monday the 19th a bunch of different projects funded by the Norwegian taxonomy initiative travelled up North together to meet up with researchers from NTNU in the NTNU Sletvik field station.

Front of Sletvik fieldstation main building, photo credits Nina T. Mikkelsen

Sletvik fieldstation is NTNU owned and is a short drive from Trondheim. The Germans built the station during the Second World War. Ever since it has been used as a town hall, a school and a shop. In 1976 the NTNU University took over the building and transformed it into a field station, which it remains ever since. The entire station contains of two buildings that has room for a total of 75 people (Before Corona). The main building has a kitchen, dining and living room plus a large teaching laboratory, a multilab and two seawater laboratories. Besides it has bedrooms, sauna, laundry rooms, and showers, fully equipped! The barracks have additional bedrooms and showers, all in all, plenty of space.

 

From the Natural History Museum of Bergen, 5 current running projects would use the NTNU fieldstation facilities for a week in order to work on both fixed as well as fresh material. Besides HYPCOP (follow @planetcopepod), we had Hardbunnsfauna (Norwegian rocky shore invertebrates @hardbunnsfauna), Norhydro (Norwegian Hydrozoa), Norchitons (Norwegian chitons @norchitons) and NorAmph2 (Norwegian amphipods) joining the fieldwork up North!

Lot of material needed to be sorted, photo credit @hardbunnsfauna / Katrine Kongshavn

 

At the Sletvik fieldstation, a lot of material from previous fieldwork was waiting for us to be sorted.

For HYPCOP we wanted to focus mostly on fresh material, as this was a new location for the project. And not just new, it was also interesting as we have never been able to sample this far north before.  Almost every day we tried to sample fresh material from different locations around the fieldstation

Cessa and Francisca on the hunt for copepods, photo credits Katrine Kongshavn)

On top of that we aimed to sample from different habitats. From very shallow heavy current tidal flows, rocky shores, steep walls, almost closed marine lakes (pollen called in Norwegian) and last but not least, sea grass meadows

Different habitats give different flora and invertebrate fauna, photo credits Nina T. Mikkelsen

Sampling we did by either dragging a small plankton net trough the benthic fauna or the most efficient way, going snorkeling with a net bag

Ready for some snorkeling with Cessa and August, photo credits Torkild Bakken

Benthic copepod species tend to cling on algae and other debris from the bottom, so it is a matter of collecting and see in the laboratory whether we caught some copepods, which, hardly ever fails, because copepods are everywhere!

Copepods are difficult to identify due to their small nature, differences between males, females and juveniles’ and the high abundance of different species. Therefore, we rely heavily on genetic barcoding in order to speed up the process of species identification. So, after collecting fresh material, we would make pictures of live specimens to document their unique colors, and then proceed to fixate them for DNA analyses.

Yet unidentified copepod species with beautiful red color, photo credits Cessa Rauch

Winter Wonderland! Photo credits Cessa Rauch

The other projects had a similar workflow so you can imagine, with the little time we got, the Sletvik fieldstation turned into a busy beehive! One week later we already had to say goodbye to the amazing fieldstation, and after a long travel back (even with some snow in the mountains), we finally arrived back in Bergen where unmistakably our work of sorting, documentation and barcoding samples continued!

If you are interested to follow the projects activity, we have social media presence on Twitter (@planetcopepod, @hardbunnsfauna, @norchitons), Instagram (@planetcopepod, @hardbunnsfauna, @norchitons) and Facebook (/planetcopepod /HydrozoanScience).

 

-Cessa

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

Sea slugs of Southern Norway; farewell but not goodbye!

A note from the Norwegian Taxonomy Initiative project (artsprosjekt) “Sea Slugs of Southern Norway” (project home page), which ran from 2018 to the end of April 2020.

Dear all,

The Sea slugs of Southern Norway project reached its terminus at the end of April, with sending the last reports of our collection and research efforts to Artsdatabanken (the Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre).

What we have been able to build up these last two years is of immense importance for the scientific collections of the Natural History Museum of Bergen (University of Bergen)  and for (Norwegian) biodiversity research.

Sea slugs of Southern Norway managed to collect over 1000 lots covering 93 different sea slug species, of which 19 are new for Norway and a few new to science (we are working on it!).

Below are photos of the species that were collected at different sampling events.  The photos are made either by the researchers associated with the project, or by the amazing team of citizen scientists.

Look at these beauties!

This would absolutely not have been possible without the special effort of our knowledgeable citizen scientists, and we would like to use this opportunity to name a few that were extraordinarily productive during the last years and provided the project and the Museum with valuable samples; Nils Aukan, Roy Dahl, Viktor Grøtan, Heine Jensen, Tine Kinn Kvamme, Runa Lutnæs, Ole Christian Meldahl, Jenny Neuhaus, Bjørnar Nygård, Anders Schouw, Erling Svensen, Cecilie Sørensen, Mona Susanne Tetlie, Anne Mari with Ottesen, Mandal Dykkerklub, Hemne Dykkerklubb, Slettaa Dykkerklubb, SUB-Studentes Undervannsklubb Bergen, Larvik Dykkerklubb, Sandefjord Dykkerklubb, and all the others that made big and small contributions.

A big thank-you to all contributors!

Would you like to know more about the citizen scientists part of the project? Check out this paper (starts on page 23) by Cessa and Manuel: Sea Slugs of Southern Norway: an example of citizens contributing to science.

Mandal team

One of the core components of the projects success was our outreach effort on all kind of social media platforms. During these two years these platforms got much more traffic than we initially thought; apparently we have many Norwegian sea slug fans, within and outside of Norway!

Therefore we decided to continue with our outreach efforts to keep everyone engaged and up to date about these wonderful animals in our ocean backyard, but with some minor adjustments. Some of you might have already noticed a few changes during the last days on the Facebook page  and our Instagram account. From today onward, the social media pages will cover sea slugs of all of Norway, and is now named accordingly. We also welcome a new admin to the facebook group: Torkild Bakken of NTNU University Museum. Welcome Torkild, the more expertise the better, so we are very happy to have you onboard!

We encourage everyone in this community to continue to be active and share your findings and knowledge with other.

Let’s carry on enjoying the wonderful world of sea slugs of Norway!

 

-Cessa & Manuel

 

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