Category Archives: DNA barcode

2021 in review for Hardbunnsfauna

Another year of our “Hardbunnsfauna”-project;  Invertebrate fauna of marine rocky shallow-water habitats: species mapping and DNA barcoding (funded by the Norwegian taxonomy Initiative) is coming to an end.

I opted for an easy way to show some of the activities we’ve had on our by selecting a post from each month on our Instagram account to share.

Do give us a follow, if you aren’t already: we are @hardbunnsfauna on both Instagram and Twitter!

Click on the images to expand them

January: Field work on R/V Hans Brattstrøm in gorgeous (but FREEZING) weather

February: our report from field work in Saltstraumen got published

March: Workshop at Espegrend field station together with the projects HypCop and NorChitons

April: results are coming in on some of the DNA barcoding we are doing. Sponges (like the blue one here) are tricky to barcode, but we are getting some interesting results!

May: we have also barcoded a lot of other groups, including a substantial amount of microgastropods (tiny snails)

June: The first master student from the project successfully presented his thesis

July: We played marine invertebrate bingo (did you get a full set..?)

August: Fieldwork in the neighborhood; we sampled invertebrates from the fjord clean-up SUB was doing in Puddefjorden

September: We participated at an event at Os together with Havkollektivet, introducing the invertebrate and vertebrate locals to each other

October: Katrine was on a research cruise with limited internet, but did sample many interesting critters for the project

November: Field work in Haugesund, where Slettaa Dykkerklubb arranged a course on marine biology for divers

December: Pre-end-of-year-hectic-season, but we are enjoying the contributions coming in (physical and electronic) from our wonderful citizen scientists!

Then we wish you all some very
-Katrine

Research internship – Carla García Carrancio

On summer 2021 I had the opportunity to conduct a research visit at the University Museum of Bergen under project NorHydro. Concretely, I was working with the hydrozoan collections, where I got to know first-hand the role played by the curators and the importance of the collections. I examined several specimens and digitalized their associated data creating e-vouchers. Having all the information of specimens in a digital format is very important because it allows other researchers to access the material without having to come to the museum and helps to make the inventory more accessible and organised. I also improved my knowledge of hydrozoan diversity by identifying numerous specimens deposited at the museum. For that, I used some keys for both thecate and athecate hydroids from North—West European waters as well as the guidance of my MSc supervisor Luis Martell.

The main difference between leptothecate and anthoathecate hydroids is the lack of theca in the latter (the theca is a cup-like structure that protects the polyps), but some of them can be very tricky to identify since anthoathecate hydroids may have theca-like structures, and the theca of lepthothecate polyps may be difficult to see at first sight. Also, when you look at a sample, you may found several hydrozoans growing on the same substrate all together, making identification even more difficult. One of the characteristics used to differentiate species is the presence and the shape of the reproductive structures (gonophores), but they are not always present if the polyps are not reproductive.

Sertularella rugosa (top row) is without a doubt one of my favourite hydrozoans. The hydrothecae resemble a bee hive and the colony has a zig-zag appearance. However, it is easy to confuse it with Sertularella tenella (bottom row). Pictures credits: Carla García.

Polyps of the family Campanulariidae. This common family is characterized by the presence of a bell-shaped theca. Pictures credits: Carla García.

During my stay, I also had the chance to go sampling on a research boat, which helped me to understand better the procedures and requirements that are necessary to collect hydrozoans. We used a wide-mouthed plankton net that went up and down at a constant speed to avoid damaging the jellies and other gelatinous organisms from the plankton. After sampling, we took the cod-end to the laboratory. There, the content of the cod-end was poured on a light table. Then, we selected interesting specimens (including hydromedusae belonging to genus Euphysa) with wide mouthed pipettes and transferred them to Petri dishes filled with fresh seawater to observe them better under a microscope.

Towing the plankton-net which went down to 650m to capture some gelatinous organisms. As you can imagine, going up and down such a long distance takes a lot of time, but it is never boring with colleagues like Aino Hosia (right). Picture credits: Carla García.

I was lucky enough to get samples of Euphysa aurata and Euphysa sp., but they did not want to pose for my photo and kept moving around. Picture credits: Carla García.

We took the opportunity to collect some shallow-water benthic hydroids just in front of the Marine Station. Picture credit: Carla García.

Last but not least, I worked at the DNA lab, which allowed me to gain experience in new molecular techniques that I had not used before and to adapt myself to different (and very modern) facilities.

This experience has been simply great for me. I loved the working environment and the fact that everybody was always there to give me a hand. I have learned a lot and I am taking with me many friends that I hope to meet again when I come back to Bergen.

If you want to know more about projects of NorHydro and HYPNO, visit NorHydro’s home page and Facebook page, and check the hashtags #HYPNO and #NorHydro inTwitter.

               

-Carla García-Carrancio

Hello Jorunna artsdatabankia; new sea slug for Norway and to the World!

In 2018 former master student Jenny Neuhaus started working under supervision of Manuel Malaquias and Cessa Rauch on the sea slug species Jorunna tomentosa.

Jenny presenting her work on Jorunna tomentosa on the world malacology conference in the USA

It was known already for some time that this sea slug occurs in a wide variety of colour patterns (morphotypes). With the increased discovery of cryptic species due to improved molecular techniques we wondered if we were dealing with a single species or several cryptic lineages.

For a long time the different colours and patterns were regarded as natural variation within the species, consisting of shades of grey-white, cream-yellow, pale orange and either plain of blotched with light brown or chocolate brown spots of various sizes, distributed either irregularly or in lines, or combination of both!

But it was this variety that tossed up the question eventually whether we are dealing with a single species after all.

The diversity within Jorunna tomentosa

The nudibranch genus Jorunna consisted of eleven recognized species occurring in European waters. At that time, Jorunna tomentosa (Cuvier, 1804) was the only known species of this genus to be found along the Norwegian coastline. Prior to the study, the northernmost record of J. tomentosa was listed from Vestvågøy, Lofoten, Nordland. Today we know that the species is found at least 550 km further North in the Magerøysundet, Troms og Finnmark.

Jorunna tomentosa has an oval-elongate body shape with different colours varying from grey-white to cream-yellow and pale orange. They can reach a size up to 55 mm and occur at depths from a few meters down to more than 400m. They feed on sponges of the species Halichondria panicea, Haliclona oculata and Haliclona cinerea. J. tomentosa can be found from Finnmark in northern Norway, southwards along the European Atlantic coastline, the British Isles, the French coast, Iberian Peninsula, Mediterranean Sea up to Turkey, and the Azores and Canary Islands. Besides the species has even been recorded from South Africa.

Jenny Neuhaus in the lab of Prof. Marta Pola in Spain dissecting specimens for anatomical studies

Jenny compared specimens from different parts of the world, including Norway, Ireland, Spain, France, Portugal including the Azores and South Africa. She took tissue samples for genetic studies and dissected them for their anatomy.

For the genetic studies we selected three different gene markers called COI, 16S and H3 to check how these morphotypes compare with each other and evaluate the meaning of genetic distances.

From the genetic distance analyses, it became clear that we were dealing with a “cryptic species complex”, as a clade of three specimens showed substantial genetic difference compared to J. tomentosa but seemed morphologically indistinguishable from another at first glance.

As sea slug anatomy is a matter of complexity, especially since each animal possesses both male and female reproductive organs (hermaphrodite), the expertise of Prof. Marta Pola from the University of Madrid was essential to conduct detailed morpho-anatomical studies. We were able to detect structural differences in the rasping tongue (radula) and parts of the reproductive apparatus.

Meet Jorunna artsdatabankia!

Jenny sequenced the DNA of 78 specimens of which 60 where successful for using in the final phylogenetic analyses. Her results supported the presence of a new Jorunna species, and in addition a possible case of incipient speciation in J. tomentosa with two genetic lineages morphologically undistinguishable. The new Jorunna species was based on material collected from Norway (Kristiansund, Frøya & the North Sea).

Jorunna artsdatabankia

J. artsdatabankia has a plain white to yellow background colour accompanied by small brownish spots irregularly placed on the body surface. Its distributional range is so far restricted to Norway, being recorded from Skogsøya, Frøya (Trøndelag), Brattøya, Kristiansund (Møre og Romsdal), and a North Sea plateau (60.726944 0.505371) with a depth range from 27 to 350 meters, suggesting a sympatric occurrence with J. tomentosa.

Jorunna artsdatabankia in comparison to Jorunna tomentosa

The name attributed to this new species was chosen to recognize the work of the Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre (Artsdatabanken) for their instrumental role promoting and supporting biodiversity research in Norway.

– Cessa Rauch, Jenny Neuhaus, Manuel Malaquias

 

Sea slugs of Norway Instagram: @seaslugsofnorway

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


The paper can be found here:

The genus Jorunna (Nudibranchia: Discodorididae) in Europe: a new species and a possible case of incipient speciation. Jenny Neuhaus, Cessa Rauch, Torkild Bakken, Bernard Picton, Marta Pola, Manuel António E Malaquias (2021), Journal of Molluscan Studies, Volume 87, Issue 4, December 2021, eyab028, https://doi.org/10.1093/mollus/eyab028

Sampling together in the Sognefjord

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

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

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

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

Boathouse communal area turned into a temporary lab

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

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

Jon Kongsrud with the grab

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

NorHydro researchers from ltr Luis Martell and Joan Soto Angel

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

Left: Margelopsis hartlaubii, right: juvenile Melicertum octocostatum

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

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

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

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

Sampling for Hardbunnsfauna and HYPCOP by means of snorkelling

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

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

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

-Cessa, Nataliya & Joan

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

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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