Category Archives: Field work

Exposing the Indian Ocean staggering diversity: fieldtrip to Nuarro, northern Mozambique (October 2017)

Pursuing our goal to understand the diversity, origin and biogeography of the Indo-West Pacific biota, we went back to Mozambique to continue the exploration of the reef systems of the country. After a first fieldtrip to the subtropical southern coast of Mozambique in 2014, and a second during 2015 to the tropical Quirimbas islands (Vamizi I.) not far from the border with Tanzania, we visited this time for two weeks between the 15–28 October 2017 the coastal pristine reefs and mangroves of Memba District in Nuarro, Nangata Bay, together with Prof. João Macuio from the University Lurio, Pemba and Dr Yara Tibiriça based at Nuarro Lodge, that kindly organized the expedition.

The staggering diversity of the tropical Indo-Pacific is well known and the area between the Philippines, Indonesia, and New Guinea (the Coral Triangle) is famous for hosting the highest marine diversity in the planet. However, for various reasons (political, economic, etc.) the Indian Ocean has been comparatively less surveyed, and much fewer studies are available for this region. Some recent publications are though showing that for corals and molluscs, at least, the region is extremely diverse, nearly comparable with the coral triangle.

We want to understand why is this region so diverse and whether the Indian Ocean harbours similar or a different faunal composition compared to the West Pacific Ocean. The traditional view is that most tropical species are broadly distributed across the Indo-West Pacific, but recent evidence from DNA studies suggests otherwise, but this is not yet well understood. If significant differences are found, then, understanding what may have driven speciation across both realms becomes a major quest.

Jorunna rubescens

Phyllidia varicosa

Plakobranchus sp.

Reticulidia suzanneae

Nuarro is a remote place, four and half hours driving from Nampula international airport, half of them through earth roads. It is located in beautiful Nangata Bay lined by fine white sands and calm turquoise waters. The area is characterized by a large diversity of marine habitats like sand flats, coral bommies, seagrass meadows, coral reefs, and coralline drop-off walls plunging into the deep blue.

The expedition had its basecamp at Nuarro Lodge, an eco-lodge offering diving facilities and a research center. The lodge besides its hostel activities is engaged in social, educational, heath, and nature conservation programmes with the local communities helping to improve education standards for the younger generations, mitigate the impact of native diseases like malaria, and the sustainable use of nature resources. For this last goal a marine protected area was created in 2008.

João Macuio and Manuel Malaquias during a nudi photo session

Local fishermen in a wooden canoe

Measuring giant clams underwater

Yara Tibiriçá databasing the catch of the day

During two weeks we have surveyed the area for marine molluscs (sea slugs) and studied the impact of the marine protected area in the conservation of the highly sensitive and threatened giant clams (Tridacna spp.). The days at Nuarro began early, around 5.30–6am, with the sun already out and high in the blue sky. Waking up was not difficult, with the awesome strident ensemble of sounds from the many local different birds and the monkeys running and jumping on the thatched roofs of our housing! First sampling of the day around 8.30am, followed by a second one after lunchtime. The evenings were dedicated to study, photograph, identify, and database the catch of the day. We have collected approximately 68 species of sea slugs; 11 are new records to Mozambique and an additional 12 still undescribed. The conservation status of the populations of giant-clams was evaluated in areas under fishing pressure by the local communities and inside the marine reserve for comparison, and it was obvious the positive impact of the marine protect area.

Monkey jumping on the roof of our accommodation

A “family” of moray eels

Collecting in the mangroves

Crown-of-thorns starfish feeding on coral

Detail of a gorgonian coral

Garden eels

Nangata Bay, Nuarro

The flatworm Pseudoceros lindae

The days were busy and went far too fast, but there was time for a short social programme where we paid a visit to the local village and visited the primary school built by the lodge and met a group of local activists that work with the community to raise awareness for issues concerning hygiene, malaria, and other health matters, which regrettably still claim lives in the region far beyond acceptable numbers on the XXI century. Before the trip to Nuarro I was challenged to take a football ball with me for the local team. I have obviously eagerly done it, and it was a great delight to the see the joy of the players of the “Real Nangata” playing around with their new ball!

Primary school build by the lodge at Nangata village

Real Nangata football club

View of Nangata village with a baubau tree

The Nuarro expedition would not have been possible without the gratitude and support of the Nuarro Eco-Lodge to which I am deeply indebted.  I am also thankful to Prof. Isabel Silva from the University Lurio, Pemba and to the Fisheries Department of the Cabo Delgado Province from granting collecting and exporting permits.

Manuel António E. Malaquias, Associate Professor

Natural History Museum of Bergen, Norway

 

Getting back in business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Katrine

Happy Polychaete Day!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

gjester-januar-2016

 

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

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

Happy, hard working  students in the lab

Happy, hard working students in the lab

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

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

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

Goniobranchus kuniei. Longdong, NE Taiwan

Goniobranchus kuniei. Longdong, NE Taiwan

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some of the animals we encountered at Kenting:

Who are you?

Who are you?

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

A happy party of sea slug hunters in Penghu, Taiwan

A happy party of sea slug hunters in Penghu, Taiwan

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

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

Goniobranchus cf. sinensis

Goniobranchus cf. sinensis

Hypselodoris maritima

Hypselodoris maritima

A beautiful flatworm

A beautiful flatworm

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

A glimpse of the beautiful waterscapes at Longdong, Taiwan

A glimpse of the beautiful waterscapes at Longdong, Taiwan

Phyllidia ocellata Longdong, NE Taiwan

Phyllidia ocellata Longdong, NE Taiwan

Thuridilla sp. Longdong, NE Taiwan

Thuridilla sp. Longdong, NE Taiwan

Halgerda carlsoni Longdong, NE Taiwan

Halgerda carlsoni Longdong, NE Taiwan

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

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

-Manuel Malaquias, Natural History Museum of Bergen, UiB

Update from the Annelida-course

20170609_100827

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

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

Happy, hard working  students in the lab

Happy, hard working students in the lab

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

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

Back in the lab, Torsten explaining todays exercises

Back in the lab, Torsten explaining todays exercises

Mixing the solution to get the tiny annelids out

Mixing the solution to get the tiny annelids out

The jaws of a small Ophryotrocha

Pointing out the jaws of a small Ophryotrocha

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

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

Evolutionary history of cave shrimps

Machumvi Ndogo - preparing for a dive in the dark

Machumvi Ndogo – preparing for a dive in the dark

In 2008 UiB colleagues Kenneth Meland and Endre Willassen surveyed karst caves in Zanzibar together with Hajj M. Hajj in search for aquatic crustacea. Many of these localities have so-called anchialine conditions in which marine water penetrates inland and can mix more or less with fresh ground water.

 

Atyid shrimps were sampled in salt water about 300 m inland from the coast.

Atyid shrimps were sampled in salt water about 300 m inland from the coast.

One of these sites had three species of small shrimps of the family Atyidae. The phylogenetic relationships of these shrimps have now been analysed by an international team of “cave men” based on full mitochondrial genome sequencing performed at the University of the Balears.

Molecular clock estimates date the relationship of the Zanzibarian species to other known species in the Atlantic and Indo-pacific  to the Cretaceous period.

Shrimps from Osine Cave

Shrimps from Osine Cave

The paper is available from this link:

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-03107-y

Species divergence history of the study group.

Species divergence history of the study group. Click for details.

International Course on Annelid Systematics, Morphology and Evolution

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

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

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

lectures

Conrad (top) and Ken giving presentations

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

boat

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sognefjorden cruise May 2017

After our week with SponGES on R/V Bonnevie, Luis and I had a night back in Bergen before we headed out on our second spring adventure: a four day cruise (still onboard Bonnevie) of Sognefjorden, the longest (205 km) and (deepest 1308 m) fjord in Norway.

The cruise, led by Prof. Henrik Glenner from the Institute of Biology, UoB,  was a multi-purpose one, with the majority of the projects being linked to the Norwegian Taxonomy Initiative (Artsprosjekt):

We collected material for the ongoing project that is investigating and mapping the barnacle fauna (Crustacea: Cirripedia) in Norway, which a special focus on the strange, parasitic barnacle Anelasma squalicola that is found on the shark Etmopterus spinax (velvet bellied lantern shark/svarthå).

The material we collected will also serve as an addendum to the project on Species inventory and nature type mapping of Sognefjorden, which was recently concluded.

As for the University Museum, Luis was onboard collecting pelagic and benthic Hydrozoa for the HYPNO-project, whilst I was on the hunt for more species for DNA-barcoding through NorBOL (the Norwegian Barcode of Life). We have also re-sampled some polychaete type localities from the 1970’s, and attempted to retrieve more material from stations where we have found new species in more recent material (we need more specimens before we can formally describe them).

In addition, we had two Danish researchers onboard that were studying the bioluminescence and eye development of the starfish family Brisingidae. The story told in images:

We should maybe also add "one of the most gorgeous" to the description of the fjord

We should maybe also add “one of the most gorgeous” to the description of the fjord

Velvet belly lanternshark, Etmopterus spinax

Velvet belly lanternshark, Etmopterus spinax

Henrik and Christoph sorting a shrimp trawl catch on deck

Henrik and Christoph sorting a shrimp trawl catch on deck

Eager pickings in the trawl catch

Eager pickings in the trawl catch

Not all trawl samples go according to plan... this one, taken in the open sea, ended up sampling *a bit* deeper than intended, so we got a lot of benthic animals - and mud. So. much. mud.

Not all trawl samples go according to plan… this one, taken in the open sea, ended up sampling *a bit* deeper than intended, so we got a lot of benthic animals – and mud. So. much. mud.

Most novel sampling gear yet? Collecting velvet belly lanternshark by monkfish!

Most novel sampling gear yet? Collecting velvet belly lanternshark by monkfish! (caught in the “benthic” trawl)

The brisinga sea stars are very fragile - and live deep down.

The brisinga sea stars are very fragile – and live deep down.

We amanged to get some not-too-damaged specimens with a small trawl

We manged to get some not-too-damaged specimens with a small trawl

The plankton net going our for collecting

The plankton net going our for collecting

Luis an Marie studying a plankton sample

Luis an Marie studying a plankton sample

Plankton

Plankton

For some reason, my samples seems to involve inordinate amounts of mud - good thing I had good helpers to work through it all!

For some reason, my samples seems to involve inordinate amounts of mud – good thing I had good helpers to work through it all!

Cruising in a postcard!

Cruising in a postcard!

Sadly, plastic pollution was prevalent in Sognefjorden as well - here's a soda bottle from a sample taken at 911 m depth

Sadly, plastic pollution was prevalent in Sognefjorden as well – here’s a soda bottle from a sample taken at 911 m depth

And here are som eof the plastic that we ended up with from our sampling, most of it from over 1000 meters depth.

Here is some of the plastic that we ended up with from our sampling, most of it recovered from over 1000 meters depth.

Our final night of the cruise was spent in the mud and the sunset - it's starting to become a recurring theme!

Our final night of the cruise was spent in the mud and the sunset – it’s starting to become a recurring theme!

Once again, thank you so much to the crew on Bonnevie for all their help!

Once again, thank you so much to the crew on Bonnevie for all their help!

-Katrine

Fieldwork with the SponGES project on R/V Kristine Bonnevie – part II

I wanted to write a bit more abou the SponGES cruise, as we are currently entering Sognefjorden on the second spring cruise Luis and I have managed to sign up for (what a job!).

SponGES took us to Korsfjorden, Bømlafjorden, west of Bømlahuken and finally past Fedje and back to Bergen. We ended up with ~70 stations, using grabs, Agassiz trawl, plankton net, RP-sledge and ROV. For the most part the gear performed admirably, though we had some mishaps (and an epic final station, key word being MUD – Anne Helene will have more to say about that one).
The first grab of the new cruise is going down, so I have to be quick; here’s SponGES in pictures (not recorded: lots of laughs and horrible songs)

Hunting for jellyfish (and some hydroids) with the SponGES Project

Picking out interesting specimens from the catch

Picking out interesting specimens from the catch

Any opportunity to be in the sea is a good opportunity to go jelly-hunting, and the recent participation of HYPNO on a research cruise with the SponGES Project on RV Kristine Bonnevie this late April – early May was no exception!

To begin with, we got the chance to sample some hydromedusae and siphonophores  with the plankton net in Bømlafjord. As usual, towing the net slowly (~0.3 ms-1) resulted in happy jellies (they get damaged if the net is towed too fast!) that sometimes can be identified with ease. Over 15 different species of pelagic hydrozoans (plus some ctenophores and Tomopteris worms) were present in this vertical tow, with some nice looking critters such as the Eutonina indicans and Leuckartiara octona medusae shown below.

Eutonina indicans

Eutonina indicans

Leuckartiara octona

Leuckartiara sp.

But not only hydromedusae and siphonophores showed up this time; we also got our hands on benthic samples from grabs and trawls, and found hydroids growing on rocks and other sea creatures (mostly sponges and sea squirts). Abietinaria abietina and Sertularella gayi (pictures below) are among the most common hydroids observed so far, and they were hosting a whole bunch of other hydrozoan species growing on top of them: real mini animal forests from the Norwegian waters!

Abietinaria abietina

Abietinaria abietina

Sertularella gayi

Sertularella gayi

 

-Luis