Category Archives: DNA barcode

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

Sea slug day 2020; Jorunna in the spotlight

Today we celebrate Sea Slug Day! ✨

The day coincides with the birthday of Terry Gosliner, who has discovered one-third of all known sea slug species (more than a 1000!). Here’s a link to how October 29th became #SeaSlugDay.

And what better way to celebrate it than introducing a new species to the world. Today it will all be about the Jorunna tomentosa species complex that our master student Jenny Neuhaus studied for the last two years.

Jorunna tomentosa, picture Cessa Rauch

Jorunna tomentosa is known to occur in a wide variety of colour patterns, which tossed up the question whether we are actually looking at a single species at all, or maybe dealing with cryptic lineages.

The colour diversity of Jorunna tomentosa, picture by Anders Schouw, Nils Aukan, Cessa Rauch, Manuel A. E. Malaquias

Jenny compared specimens from Norway, Ireland, Spain, Azores and South Africa, both genetically as well as anatomically. She used different gene markers like COI, 16S & H3 to check how these morphotypes compare with each other and evaluate the meaning of genetic distances. But she also did an elaborate morpho-anatomical study to look for differences between these colour patterns. Together with Dr. Marta Pola in Madrid, they dissected the different J. tomentosa specimens and looked at parts of the digestive (radula & labial cuticles) and the reproductive systems. These are all key to help unraveling putative different species and characterize them.

About Jorunna tomentosa

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.

Before Jenny studied J. tomentosa, the various colour morphs were regarded as part of the natural variation of the species. By combining molecular phylogenetics with morpho-anatomical characters Jenny investigated the taxonomic status of the different colour morphs of J. tomentosa.

Jorunna sp. nov.?

Jenny sequenced 78 specimens of which 60 where successful for using in the final phylogenetic analyses. Her results supported a new Jorunna species, and a possible case of incipient speciation in J. tomentosa with two genetic lineages morphologically undistinguishable.

From left to right Jorunna spec. nov. Jorunna tomentosa lineage A and down Jorunna tomentosa lineage B

The new Jorunna species was based on material collected from Norway (Kristiansund, Frøya & the North Sea). Jorunna spec. nov. has a distinct colour pattern of cream-yellow with dark small dots (plus, as important; major differences in the radula and reproductive system).

Jorunna spec. nov.

It has been our pleasure to have Jenny here as a student, and she has done excellent work. Last year she won best student poster award last year with her work on Jorunna tomentosa at the World Congress of Malacology in California, USA. Most recently, Jenny defended her thesis on October 26 and passed with an A for her great work – congratulations from all of us at the Museum!

-Cessa Rauch

Sea slugs of Norway Instagram: @seaslugsofnorway

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

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

Field work in Biskopshavn

Happy International Day for Biological Diversity 2020!
On this day, we wanted to share a few glimpses of our most recent field work:

We were finally able to – with some precautions in place – resume our field activities again this Tuesday; we had a lovely day trip in the sun to Biskopshavn, a locality just a few minutes drive away from the lab.

Here we collected animals from the shallow sub-littoral (from just below the tide mark to ~3 m depth) for the new project on Copepoda (see more about that here), and for Invertebrate fauna of marine rocky shallow-water habitats (Hardbunnsfauna).

Below is a short video from the field & lab (including the inevitable Littorina on the lam!), and a few of our findings from the day.

This is a polychaete in the family Syllidae. If you look at the tail end on the top image, you can see that it is about to breed: these animals can do so with schizogamy, which is the production of stolons (enlarged in lower image) which are budded off and become pelagic, swimming away to breed. The stolons form complete new animals, but differ from the stock animal in a number of respects, such enlargement of the eyes, reduction of the gut, and different musculature. The stolons die after breeding.

One of the animal groups Hardbunnsfauna is focusing on is the Bryozoa, or moss animals. Pictured is a Bowebankia spp. Due to COVID we haven’t been able to host our international specialists here this spring. We are amassing a nice collection of animals, and do our best to identify them – we will  begin preparing plates for DNA barcoding soon, and then involve the taxonomists once we have the results.

-Katrine, Cessa & Jon

Meet ZMBN 130407!

How much information do you think we have on the animals in our collections? 🤔

Quite a lot more than you might think, and here to help us show you, we have a small snail from the shore. Meet specimen #ZMBN 130407, a Littorina saxatilis 🐌 (rough periwinkle/spiss strandsnegl).

We collected it one year ago on our fieldwork up North, in Tendringsvika near Tjeldsund (Troms): our northernmost station on the trip.

Tendringsvika in Troms

Here’s a short video of the habitat: notice how the sea urchins dominate once we get below the intertidal zone!

To be able to use the Invertebrate Collections for research, we need to know quite a lot about each animal (“specimen”). Standard information would be where, when and how it was collected, who collected it, who identified it (and revisions), notes about the habitat, images if any, and the museum number that it is registered within our database.

A screenshot of how it may look when a specimen is registered in our database

If there is genetic data – like here, a DNA barcode as part of NorBOL – we also need the genetic information. This information is stored in the international barcode library BOLD (BOLDSystems.org), where it is organised in projects containing information linked to the physical specimen, and to the DNA.

Small snail, much data!

If you look at the lower right corner, you will find information about specimens that have identical DNA sequences, and who are therefore grouped together in what is called a BIN in BOLD (/OTU). Most of the other specimens with identical DNA barcode have also been identified to Littorina saxatilis, but not all…that’s one reason to keep the animals in museum collections, so that identifications can be re-checked if needed 🔬.

Through our project (hardbunnsfauna) on shallow water hard bottom fauna from Norway, we are helping build a good DNA barcode library of species that occur in Norway – with reference (“voucher”) specimens in the scientific collections of the University Museum of Bergen, and with our partner, NTNU University Museum.

-Katrine