Category Archives: MAREANO

Door # 8: The DNA-barcode identification machine

In a previous blog post I explained briefly how DNA-sequences are produced for the DNA-barcode library. Now I will show how the BOLD database can be utilized to identify species from sequences.

Some of the equipment used to produce DNA-sequences in our lab.

Say you have access to a lab that can produce DNA-sequences and you have a sample of a crab you cannot identify because some of the key characters are on body parts that have been broken and lost. You produce a DNA-sequence from the “barcode-gene” and open the identification engine in BOLDSYSTEMS.org.

Internet start window for the BOLD identification engine where you paste your unknown DNA sequence into the bottom blank window. (Click on picture to expand)

Having submitted your query to BOLD, you wait for some seconds for results. In this example BOLD returned the following window.

Example of results from a query to the BOLD identification engine. (Click on picture to expand)

The results window lists the top matches in terms of sequence similarity, and in this case we have 100 % similarity match with the crab Atelecyclus rotundatus. There is also an option to display the results as a TREE BASED IDENTIFICATION. When clicking on the option tab, the closest hits are clustered in a so-called Neighbour Joining Tree. In the window below you see parts of the tree where our unknown DNA-sequence has been joined to a group of other sequences in BOLD that have been deposited as Atelecyclus rotundatus barcodes by other biodiversity labs.

Part of TREE BASED IDENTIFICATION of an unknown DNA sequence (in red). We see that the unknown clusters with with other sequence of Atelecyclus rotundatus. The nearest neighbour branch is Atelecyclus undecimdentatus. (Click on picture to enlarge.)

The species page for Atelecyclus rotundatus gives us more information about this crab and about its records in BOLD.

Species page for the individual we identified with the BOLD identification engine. (Click picture to enlarge.)

If in fact your sequence was produced from an unknown crab, this identification seems convincing. But sometimes you should think twice about search results, and this will be the topic of a future blog post.

-Endre

Door #7: New shipment of tissue samples for barcoding

In the upper right corner is a “plate”: the microplates with 96 wells where we deposit small tissue samples that are to be processed at the CCDB lab in Canada for NorBOL

On the third day of Christmas,
we sent eleven microplates away:
one plate cnidarians (A)
two with worms a-wriggle (B)
two plates of insects (C)
three plates crustaceans (D)
two (and a half) plates of mites (E)
and a half-plate assorted a-arthropods (F)!

Ahem. Yes.

As Endre explained in the fifth post of the calendar, collecting, identifying, documenting and keeping specimens used for DNA barcoding is an important part of what we do here at the invertebrate collections. Our mission in the NORBOL consortium is to produce DNA-barcodes, particularly for marine fauna in Norwegian waters and to make these barcodes available with open access to records and metadata in the BOLD database. These samples contribute to the building of a validated reference library of the genetic barcodes of the species found in Norway. You can search for different taxonomic groups here to see if they have been barcoded from Norwegian territory: Search NorBOL

The process is fairly straight forward (at least on paper!): Animals are collected and identified. Those species relevant for barcoding are selected, and a specimen (=1 animal) is chosen to be barcoded. We take a small tissue sample from the specimen, and keep the rest of the animal as the barcode voucher; if the need should arise to check if it really is what we initially thought, it is crucial to be able to go back and check the animal again. The tissue samples are collected in wells on a plate like the one pictured above, and the information about the animals – where they were collected, who collected them, what species they are, who identified them and so on is uploaded to BOLD together with images of the animals.

Representatives for the tissue sample plates that we just shipped off. Thank you Steffen, Anna and Per for contributing the terrestrial animals and images! Photos: L. Martell, A. Seniczak, S. Roth, K. Kongshavn. Illustration: K. Kongshavn

On Monday we shipped a new batch of plates – as (attempted) illustrated in song above.

Included is material from several of the Norwegian Taxonomy Initiative projects (artsprosjekt) that are happening at the University Museum of Bergen. We are coordinating the efforts on marine life, but are of course also facilitating the NorBOL barcoding of other organisms that take place at the UMB.  There are animals from NorAmph (Norwegian Amphipoda), Hydrozoan pelagic diversity in Norway (HYPNO), Orbatid mites, and the insects found associated with nutrient rich marshes in Hedmark in this shipment.

We have also prepared several plates of Crustaceans collected and identified by the Norwegian marine mapping programme Mareano – one of the great contributors of material to the collections.

Now we wait for the lab to process them, and for the genetic sequences to be uploaded to BOLD – fingers crossed for many interesting results!

-Katrine

Door #5: DNA-barcoding with BOLD

Much of the activities in our invertebrate collections are dedicated to so-called DNA-barcoding. Our mission in the NORBOL consortium is to produce DNA-barcodes, particularly for marine fauna in Norwegian waters and to make these barcodes available with open access to records and metadata in Boldsystems.com. In the same manner we have also worked to produce DNA-barcodes for marine invertebrates on the West-African continental shelf in a project called we call MIWA.

These QR-codes will take you to maps with plots of specimens that have been barcoded in our projects (or simply click on them. The red dots on the maps are interactive):

QR-code to view our barcoding efforts in NORBOL

QR-code to view our barcoding in the MIWA project

The basic idea motivating these activities is very simple in principle. You collect specimens and identify them, preferably to species, take digital photographs, and upload information about collection site and other relevant data to a database (BOLDsystems.org).

The specimen page has a picture and other data about the organism that the DNA sequence (presumably) was produced from (click picture to enlarge).

You take a tissue sample to extract DNA from the specimen and use DNA-sequencing technology to target a special fragment of DNA to read the sequence of nucleotides. The expectation is that this sequence may be unique for the particular species you identified.  If indeed the expectation is fulfilled, you can use that sequence as an unambiguous identifier (“bar-code”) of that species.  You have produced a DNA-barcode!

A sequence page in BOLD contains the DNA-sequence (the barcode), the aminoacid translation of the sequence, and the trace-files from the DNA-sequencing machine.(Click picture to enlarge)

Your barcode should enter a DNA-barcode library so that, with an appropriate web-interface to a powerful computer with a search algorithm that compares similarities, you should be able to search with a second sequence from another individual of the same species and find that it is identical, or at least very similar to the one you produced for the DNA-barcode library.  The benefits are potentially many. One advantage is that you may be able to identify a species although all the morphological characteristics have been lost. For the biologist DNA-barcodes may help to identify juvenile stages of a species or even the stomach contents of a predator or scavenger. For conservation, customs, trade, and food authorities DNA barcodes are a powerful means to monitor resource exploitation and attempts to swindle with species identities or area of origin of  biological products.

A taxon window in BOLD fro the crab Atelecyclus undecimdentatus. (Click picture to enlarge)

DNA-barcoding certainly also contributes to the mapping of species distributions and to survey genetic characteristics of taxa. Perhaps initially somewhat unexpected, it also reveals many problems in taxonomy that call for resolution through closer studies. More about this will follow in other blog posts.

-Endre

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

Aliens amongst us?

It certainly does not take a great leap of imagination to get from these Isopoda collected by the MAREANO programme to various science fiction monsters!

isopoda_images_resized

click to embiggen!

I just completed photographing and tissue sampling 95 specimens that will be submitted for barcoding through NorBOL  – we’ll send them to the CCDB-lab in Canada for sequencing, and upload the metadata and sequences in the BOLD database – fingers crossed for successful sequencing!

Door #4: A spindly Sunday

One of the cool things with the NorBOL-project is that it allows us spotlight animal groups that we don’t normally get to do much with. One such group is the sea spiders, or Pycnogonida. These spider-like critters wander around on the seafloor looking for other invertebrates to snack on (some also live on detritus and algae), and (presumably) for love. I certainly find a lot of them carrying egg sacks and young ones, so they must succeed every now and then! In the Pycnogonida, it is the males who care for the laid eggs and the young, rolling the eggs into one or several balls that he carries around on his ovigers.

The ones I photographed ranged from tiny to over 30 cm:

Colossendeis angusta, collected by MAREANO - this is bigger than a handful

Colossendeis angusta, collected by MAREANO – this is bigger than a handful

Ammothea echinata from the day when we joined the local student dive club - the animal is only a few mm

Ammothea echinata from the day when we joined the local student dive club – the animal is only a few mm

Anatomy of a pycnogonid: A: head; B: thorax; C: abdomen 1: proboscis; 2: chelifores; 3: palps; 4: ovigers; 5: egg sacs; 6a–6d: four pairs of legs Sars, G. O. (1895). An account of the Crustacea of Norway, with short descriptions and figures of all the species. Christiania, Copenhagen, A. Cammermeyer. L. Fdez (LP) – digitization and colouration. - Own work External anatomy of Nymphon sea spider. After G. O. Sars (1895).

Anatomy of a pycnogonid: A: head; B: thorax; C: abdomen 1: proboscis; 2: chelifores; 3: palps; 4: ovigers; 5: egg sacs; 6a–6d: four pairs of legs  L. Fdez (LP) – digitization and colouration. – Own work based on External anatomy of Nymphon sea spider. After G. O. Sars (1895).

At first glance they look a lot like the spiders we find on land, but they are really a very different class of animals (literally!); The sea spiders are found within  Checked: verified by a taxonomic editorAnimalia (Kingdom) > Checked: verified by a taxonomic editorArthropoda (Phylum) > Checked: verified by a taxonomic editorChelicerata (Subphylum) > Checked: verified by a taxonomic editorPycnogonida (Class) (from WoRMS), whilst “land spiders” are found within the order Aranea in the class Arachnida.

Extant memebers of the Pycnogonidae are found within the order Pantopoda, which translates into “all legs”, which describes them quite well! They have even moved most of their internal organs (of which they have rather few; respiration is done across the body surface, so no gills) into the legs.

The more I look at them, the funnier they look – but that may be in the eye of the beholder, as a few arachnophobes passing by the camera have declared loudly that there is nothing charming to find here – I beg to disagree!

Goofy looking Nymphon stroemi (note the cheliphores/claws)

Goofy looking Nymphon stroemi (note the chelipores/claws) and the eyes on a tubercle on the head – they have eyes facing both forwards and backwards

Pycnogonum litorale

Pycnogonum litorale

Some species, like this Nymphon gracile, can also swim: "...the swimming motions are the same as those used in walking, but more vigorously executed" King 1974

Some species, like this Nymphon gracile, can also swim: “…the swimming motions are the same as those used in walking, but more vigorously executed” King 1974

Nymphon hirtipes with hitchikers

Nymphon hirtipes with hitchikers

ZMBN_104970

Pseudopallene circularis from Spitsbergen

They are usually slow movers: Hover over the image to see a pycnogonid walking on the sea floor

To fill a plate with tissue samples from 95 specimens (1 animal = 1 specimen) of pycnogonida doesn’t sound too complicated, does it? Well, it turned out to be a bit of an adventure to gather enough animals that had been preserved in such a way that we could get DNA out of them (older material is usually fixated in Formaldehyde, which makes it unsuited for genetic work), and that was identified (had a name to them). Since we are in the process of building up the national (and international) reference library (the BOLD database) that the short DNA-segments (the “barcodes”) are to be matched up to later when someone wants to know which species “Animal X” belongs to, we need to know which species we are submitting for sequencing.

Our collection of barcode-compatible identified pycnogonids received a welcome boost when the shipment of processed material (identified, and measured for biomass) from MAREANO‘s beamtrals collected in 2013 arrived, as these had been fixated in ethanol – and identified by researchers who have worked extensively with the group.

Even so, I couldn’t fill a whole plate with only those specimens. Thankfully, I have skilled collegues that were able to put species names to almost all of the critters I could hunt down in our collections, and so now we have 95 animals ready from 26 different species! We also have some bona fide mysteries that we hope the BOLD-database will help us solve as well; animals that does not comply with any of the identification keys…!

Fingers crossed for a very successful sequence run and a lot of new information about  the Pycnogonida of Norway!

Pseudopallene longicollis, collected by MAREANO

Pseudopallene longicollis, collected by MAREANO

Info:
King, P.E. 1974: British Sea Spiders, synopses of the British Fauna (New Series) No. 5

A week of worms in Wales!

Does that not sound appealing?
It was actually a lovely event!

The IPC2016 logo © National Museum Wales

The IPC2016 logo © National Museum Wales

The 12th International Polychaete Conference took place in Cardiff, Wales during the first week of August. These events have been taking place every third year since 1981, and the previous one was in Sydney, Australia in 2013.

 

 

Polychaetologists assembled on the steps of the National Museum Cardiff (c) IPC2016

Polychaetologists anno 2016 assembled on the steps of the National Museum Cardiff © National Museum Wales

During an intensive week of presentations and posters spanning topics within Systematics, Phylogeny, Ecology, Methodologies, Biodiversity, Biodiversity and Ecology, Morphology, Reproduction & Larval Ecology, Development, and Polychaete studies, people had the chance to showcase their work, and learn more about what others are working on. The local organising committee invited us to “Have a happy conference, re-connecting with those already known, meeting correspondents for the first time, ans making new connections and new friends” – and I think we can safely say that the mission was accomplished!

Cardiff – and the National Museum Wales – was an excellent venue for “polychaetologists” from all over the globe.

Snapshots of Cardiff

Snapshots of Cardiff (photos: K.Kongshavn)

In all we were 190 attendees from about 30 countries present – including a sizeable Norwegian group! Some of us (below) gave talks, and most were also involved in posters. Results and material from large projects and surveys such as PolyNor (Polychaete diversity in Nordic Seas), MAREANO (Marine AREA database for NOrwegian waters),  NorBOL (The Norwegian Barcode of Life), and MIWA (Marine Invertebrates of West Africa) were all well incorporated in the Norwegian contributions.

There were in fact a lot of contributions involving one or more collaborators from a Norwegian institution (UM, NTNU, NIVA, The SARS center, NHM Oslo, Akvaplan-NIVA ++) being presented during the conference. It is really nice to see that the community is growing through recruitment of both students and international researchers.

Norwegian delegates lining up in the City Hall before the start of the banquet

Norwegian delegates lining up in the City Hall before the start of the banquet

As Torkild said in his excellent blog post (in Norwegian, translation by me):

Pins marking where participants come from - this was not quite completed when the photo was taken, but none the less - we beat Sweden!

Pins marking where participants come from – this was not quite completed when the photo was taken, but none the less..well represented!

With so many active participants in the field, a lot of exciting research is being carried out in Norway. Not only do we have many projects – large and small – running at our institutions involving our “regular” Norwegian collaborators; there is also a significant proportion of international participation in these projects.

Furthermore, our activities enable researchers from all over the world to visit or loan from our scientific collections, and study the substantial (new) material that the projects are generating. It is nice to see that our efforts are being recognized in the international community! The recent flurry of activities has been well aided by the Norwegian Species Initiative (Artsprosjektet) (and the MIWA-project at UM).

The majority of our research is based on, or incorporates, museum material from our collections. The collections have been built over years, decades and even centuries, and continue to increase in scientific value as new science is added.

It is gratifying to see the material being used, and we hope it will gain even more attention in the aftermath of the conference.

From the poster session - these are some (!) of the posters we were involved in

From the poster session – these are some (!) of the posters we were involved in (photos: K.Kongshavn)

The University Museum was well represented, both in attendance, and in contributions. Below is a list of what we (co-)authored, presenting author is in bold, and University Museum people are in italics. We plan on posting some of the posters here, so stay tuned for that!

Presentations:

  • Giants vs pygmies: two strategies in the evolution of deep-sea quill worms (Onuphidae, Annelida)
    Nataliya Budaeva, Hannelore Paxton, Pedro Ribeiro, Pilar Haye, Dmitry Schepetov, Javier Sellanes, Endre Willassen
  • DNA barcoding contributing to new knowledge on diversity and distribution of Polychaeta (Annelida) in Norwegian and adjacent waters
    Torkild Bakken, Jon A. Kongsrud, Katrine Kongshavn, Eivind Oug, Tom Alvestad, Nataliya Budaeva, Arne Nygren, Endre Willassen
  • Diversity and phylogeny of Diopatra bristle worms (Onuphidae, Annelida) from West Africa
    Martin Hektoen, Nataliya Budaeva
  • Experiences after three years of automated DNA barcoding of Polychaeta
    Katrine Kongshavn, Jon Anders Kongsrud, Torkild Bakken, Tom Alvestad, Eivind Oug, Arne Nygren, Nataliya Budaeva, Endre Willassen

Posters

  • Diversity and species distributions of Glyceriformia in shelf areas off western Africa
    Lloyd Allotey, Akanbi Bamikole Williams, Jon Anders Kongsrud, Tom Alvestad, Katrine Kongshavn, Endre Willassen
  • Eclysippe Eliason, 1955 (Annelida, Ampharetidae) from the North Atlantic with the description of a new species from Norwegian waters
    Tom Alvestad, Jon Anders Kongsrud, Katrine Kongshavn
  • Phylogeny of Ampharetidae
    Mari Heggernes Eilertsen, Tom Alvestad, Hans Tore Rapp, Jon Anders Kongsrud
  • Ophelina (Polychaeta, Opheliidae) in Norwegian waters and adjacent areas – taxonomy, identification and species distributions
    Jon Anders Kongsrud, Eivind Oug, Torkild Bakken, Arne Nygren, Katrine Kongshavn
  • Pista Malmgren, 1866 (Terebellidae) from Norway and adjacent areas
    Mario H. Londoño-Mesa, Arne Nygren, Jon Anders Kongsrud
  • Lumbrineridae (Annelida, Polychaeta) from Norwegian and adjacent waters with the description of a new deep-water species of Abyssoninoe
    Eivind Oug, Katrine Kongshavn, Jon Anders Kongsrud
  • Nephtyidae (Polychaeta, Phyllodocida) of West African shelf areas
    Ascensão Ravara, Jon Anders Kongsrud, Tom Alvestad
  • Phylogeny of the family Maldanidae based on molecular data
    Morten Stokkan, Jon Anders Kongsrud, Endre Willassen

We had a mid-week excursion where we got to see a bit more of our hosting country; namely the impressive Caerphilly Castle constructed in the 13th century and still looking magnificent today, and a lovely lunch at the Llanerch wineyard with time for informal mingling and catching up.

castle

Caerphilly Castle (photo: K.Kongshavn)

Note the red dragon in the Castle wall; this is the dragon of the Welsh flag. The story goes something like this (according to Wikipedia, at least!): From the Historia Brittonum,[2] written around 830 a text describes a struggle between two serpents deep underground, which prevents King Vortigern from building a stronghold. This story was later adapted into a prophecy made by the wizard Myrddin (or Merlin) of a long fight between a red dragon and a white dragon. According to the prophecy, the white dragon, representing the Saxons, would at first dominate but eventually the red dragon, symbolising the Britons, would be victorious.

Being museum people (er..? People employed at a museum, I mean!) ourselves, we made sure to visit the exhibitions as well, and especially the new “Wriggle!” exhibition, which is all about..worms! Lots of fun, and a*a lot* of information packed in. Make sure to visit it, if you get the chance!

Visiting the "Wriggle!" exhibition during the Ice Breaker event

Visiting the “Wriggle!” exhibition during the Ice Breaker event

The attendants have also been busy on Twitter, visit @IPC2016 or check #IPC12Cardiff for loads of photos and on-the-spot-commentaries

Finally, we would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to the arranging committeeDIOLCH!

Cheers, Katrine

ps: Dw i’n hoffi mwydod!

Biodiversity Valentines

This gorgeous polychaete (Bristle worm) is from the family Serpulidae, it was identfied as a Pomatoceros triquetes during the students' course in marine faunistics

This gorgeous polychaete (bristle worm) is from the family Serpulidae, it was identified as a Pomatoceros triquetes during the students’ course in marine faunistics (Photo: K.Kongshavn)

Release the Kraken!

Oh, dear… this challenge:

Please share your love of biodiversity this Valentine’s Day with the hashtag #bdvalentine.

Have fun and help raise awareness of biodiversity and conservation!

We’ll be on Twitter and Facebook celebrating all day on Friday, February 12th with “Biodiversity Valentines.” Tweet your best biodiversity-themed Valentine message with the hashtag #bdvalentine.  You can borrow from our growing Facebook gallery of #bdvalentine images here:  https://goo.gl/dZkQdS .

Get your creative juices flowing (and your creative and communications folks brainstorming)!  We’ll retweet and create a gallery of your images all day on Friday, February 12th.

At JRS, we’re working to increase the use of biodiversity data and information services for conservation and sustainable development in Africa.  We love biodiversity data.  Join in with your #bdvalentine!

ticked into our in-box from the JRS Biodiversity Foundation a couple of days ago, and we decided to give it a spin.

Now, biologists seem to gravitate towards punny (and occasionally funny) humour, and there’s been an avalanche of submissions and suggestions on what we could post.

Here’s a selection of submissions from the Invertebrate collections, we hope you’ll enjoy them!

Interspecies <3 between Laonice sarsi and L. bahusiensis (photo:T. Alvestad)

IMGP0065

This little Cephalopod was collected by MAREANO. (Photo: K.Kongshavn)

This little Cephalopod was collected by MAREANO. (Photo: K.Kongshavn)

This cuttlefish was encountered in an Aquarium, and thus does not reside in our collections! They belong to the class Cephalopoda, which also includes squid, octopodes, and nautiluses. Cuttlefish have a unique internal shell, the cuttlebone. Despite their name, cuttlefish are not fish but molluscs. (Photo: K.Kongshavn)

This cuttlefish was encountered in an Aquarium, and thus does not reside in our collections! They belong to the class Cephalopoda, which also includes squid, octopodes, and nautiluses. Cuttlefish have a unique internal shell, the cuttlebone. Despite their name, cuttlefish are not fish but molluscs. (Photo: K.Kongshavn)

IMG_2773

Not a local species! Jelly fish do not have a independent circulatory system, nor do they have structured organ systems, brain, or breathing apparatus.

isopod_stack

A friendly (?) Isopod from the Cirolanidae family.

IMG_2738-001

ZMBN_106092_4

Uncini bristles from a Euclymene (Maldanidae) polychaete

Uncini bristles from a Euclymene (Maldanidae) polychaete. The picture is taken with an Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) at our local SEM lab. The scale bar is 2 µm, or 0.002 mm, so these are truly TINY structures.

crabby.tif

Here’s an Ebalia sp. that we have barcoded through NorBOL.

Here's a Urticina eques (Photo: K.Kongshavn)

Here’s a Urticina eques (Photo: K.Kongshavn)

A Crossaster papposus collected for NorBOL together with the local student dive club SUB (Photo: K.Kongshavn)

A Crossaster papposus collected for NorBOL together with the local student dive club SUB (Photo: K.Kongshavn)

A marine snail in the family Naticidae (Photo: K.Kongshavn)

A marine snail in the family Naticidae, also known as moon snails or necklace shells. These snails are predators, mainly feeding on Bivalves (Photo: K.Kongshavn)

We could not resist, even though it's a vertebrate (Photo: K.Kongshavn)

Look at that face! We could not resist including him(?), even though it’s a vertebrate (Photo: K.Kongshavn)

(Photo: K.Kongshavn)

apologies for the ear worm!

Well, we sure had fun – we hope you did too!

Make sure to check out other contributions to the hashtag #bdvalentine on Twitter and Facebook.

Door #23: Of MAREANO and the Museum

As mentioned earlier in our calendar, we have an extensive cooperation going on with the seabed mapping programme MAREANO*. You can read a lot more about MAREANO on the project home page, where you will also find many interesting videos and beautiful photographs from – quite literally – the bottom of the sea, as video transects are extensively used for mapping the sea floor and its biodiversity.

book mareanoMAREANO very recently published a book named “The Norwegian Sea Floor – New Knowledge from MAREANO for Ecosystem-based Management”. As it presents the uniquely detailed mapping that is being carried out, it has received much attention (also internationally, more about that here and here (in Norwegian)). You can access the book as a pdf though the MAREANO web pages – check it out!

We wanted to include a post in our advent calendar about the part the University Museum plays regarding the thousands and thousands of biological samples that MAREANO generates. The MAREANO material is a big part of our everyday work here, and so it’s been blogged about before: follow the links to learn more our about cruise participation, workshops (e.g. here and here), new species described from UM based on MAREANO-material, and genetic barcoding through the Norwegian Barcode of Life (NorBOL) project.

Workshop on the MAREANO-sponges

Workshop on the MAREANO-sponges

From a workshop on Cumacean Crustacea collected by MAREANO - it was late in December,so of course we had to make gingerbread critters

From a workshop on Cumacea (Crustacea) collected by MAREANO – it was late in December, so of course we had to make gingerbread critters (that could be identified to genus or species level..!)

Snaphshot from one of the workshops during the porject Polychaete diversity in Norwegian Waters (PolyNor)

Snaphshot from one of the workshops during the project “Polychaete diversity in Norwegian Waters” (PolyNor), which has been working a lot on MAREANO-collected material

Every station with physical biological sampling typically includes two grab samples, one or two RP-sledge drags, and one beam trawl. Combined with video and all sorts of geological and chemical data collected, this gives us a thorough insight to the biodiversity at the location. The samples collected by different gears are naturally also treated differently; you can see how they are split up in this figure:

mareano_whatgoeswhere

IMR = Institute of Marine Research (Havforskningsinstituttet)

Now, any project – even one as extensive as MAREANO – does have a finite life span, whereas museum collections are (at least in theory) here for “eternity”. This means that we have to try and envision what material will be important not just right now, but also in the future – whilst we simultaneously deal with the constraints of limited time and space. It is not feasible to keep everything, but we do try our best to make sure that we keep that which is most important. The fact that MAREANO collects material not only in formalin (good for morphological studies), but also in ethanol (which – unlike formalin – enables us to do genetic analysis) is hugely important as we get the best of both worlds delivered – by the pallet!

Three (!) pallets of material

Pallets of material

Buckets and buckets with sediment and animals

Buckets and buckets with sediment and animals

Filling up the car with precious cargo

Filling up the car with precious cargo

Sorting the bulk fractions by station until we process them

Sorting the bulk fractions by station until we process them

Once we receive a shipment of material, we get to work – the identified animals are unpacked, and an assessment is done on how to proceed with them; catalogue them into the museum collection, interim catalogue them into our “project catalogue”, leave them untreated for now, catalogue and pass it on to researchers working on that particular group of animals, to include it in our current projects, or discard it.

The unsorted fractions require even more TLC; the first step is for us to separate the animals from the sediment – from there on it goes through much the same process as the identified critters. These unsorted (and mostly ethanol-fixed) samples have yielded many interesting finds, and will undoubtedly continue to do so! We have so far submitted over 1300 specimens collected by MAREANO to be DNA-barcoded through the NorBOL project, and this number will continue to rise.

Sorting identified polychaete samples to family before storage

Sorting identified polychaete samples to family before storage

Guest researchers come to work on the material, here is Julio from Spain, who examined bristle worms from the family Oweniidae

Guest researchers come to work on the material, here is Julio from Spain, who examined bristle worms from the family Oweniidae

But why do we need to keep all this material? Isn’t it “done” once MAREANO has done their identification of the fractions that they process? Of course not!

This material is a veritable gold mine for scientists, and it keeps on giving; MAREANO in it self aggregates a huge amount of interesting data (see here, for instance).

However, there are still many animal species groups that are extremely difficult to identify and when specialists on specific groups get the chance to compare specimens from different regions of the world, they very often find that original taxonomic identifications have to be revised. There are many reasons for that. Specimens may simply be misidentified. The revising taxonomist may also discover that specimens of the same species are called with different names in different laboratories. With applications of DNA-techniques it may also became apparent that what was originally considered to be one widespread species is actually several different species that have to be described and named.

So there are at least two main reasons why museums are eager to access and store material from projects like MAREANO and MIWA. One is the fantastic opportunity to get fresh specimen for research. Another reason is to safeguard and document the physical objects that the data were based on and to offer open access to study the specimens for the scientific community of researchers in biodiversity. Taxonomic studies may take a lot of time to complete, and taxonomists are scarce – so new results will continue to emerge at erratic intervals.

Ampharete undecima. One of the tools used when describing a new species is the electron microscope, which allows us to take very detailed photographs of the animals. Photo: K. Kongshavn

Ampharete undecima. Photo: K. Kongshavn

Thus the collected material is – and will continue to be – invaluable to scientific community for many, many years to come. There are still many new species waiting to be discovered (such as the little polychaete Ampharete undecima (Alvestad et al 2014), or the Amphipod Halirages helgae (Ringvold & Tandberg 2014), and there is much, much more to be learned about the distribution, habitats and life history of the species that we do know.

Therefore we are both proud and grateful to play a part in the safekeeping of this valuable material, and hope that it will continue to bring exciting new knowledge!

References:

Alvestad T., Kongsrud J.A., and Kongshavn , K. (2014) Ampharete undecima, a new deep-sea ampharetid (Annelida, Polychaeta) from the Norwegian Sea . Memoirs of Museum Victoria 71:11-19 Open Access.

Ringvold, H & Tandberg, A.H. (2014) A new deepwater species of Calliopiidae, Halirages helgae
(Crustacea, Amphipoda), with a synoptic table to Halirages species from the northeast Atlantic http://dx.doi.org/10.5852/ejt.2014.98

-Katrine & Endre

(*For those wondering: MAREANO is short for Marine AREAl database for NOrwegian sea areas)

Door #17: A marriage of art and science

What does an organism really look like – and how does that organism make us feel, what thought does it inspire, and what beauty is hidden within their complex structures?

Some of Pippip Ferner ́s studies from the cruise onboard G.O. Sars. (Small paintings  20x20cm in acrylic paint, ink and pencil) ©

Some of Pippip Ferner ́s studies from the cruise onboard G.O. Sars. (Small paintings 20x20cm in acrylic paint, ink and pencil) © Pippip Ferner

Anne Helene and Pippip look at the same organsims, but from different perspectives. Anne Helene works as a scientist at the Invertebrate Collections and Pippip Ferner is an artist who is very inspired by marine biology and marine organisms in her work.

As biologists we have the privilege to see many of the wonders of nature up close as part of our job. But how can we share that with the rest of you – all of us who didn´t go to that cruise, or don´t study that exact organism?

© Pippip Ferner

© Pippip Ferner

Historically, artists used to be part of most large projects – as documentarists. This tradition still stands, but now it is often the scientists that make drawings of what we see, and often more importantly: what details are the important ones for the scientific studies. Where does the pure artistic (non-documentary) work fit now?

 

 

 

Pippip´s long interest in marine biology has lead to her participation on a scientific cruise with MAREANO, where she met Anne Helene. Being on a cruise and observing animals live, talking with the scientists and see (part of?) what they see lead to a series of sketches that resulted in many paintings, sculptures and prints.

Amphipods by Pippip Ferner. Ink on paper. © Pippip Ferner Want to see more?  www.pippip.no

Amphipods by Pippip Ferner. Ink on paper. © Pippip Ferner Want to see more?
www.pippip.no

She wants to look at the marine biology from a non-scientific view point, to look at details or whole organisms and see new shapes and explore textures. Where the scientist has to stick to the strict morphology of the organism, Pippip can look at what is not seen.

Ferner had no idea in advance that an  amphipod had personality...  © Pippip Ferner

Ferner had no idea in advance that an
amphipod had personality… © Pippip Ferner

Here are some of Pippips examinations of amphipods – and some photos and scientific drawings of some amphipods that might have been inspiring her.  In Pippips own words, she aims to “ contrast beauty against ugliness, weak against strong, small againt large.” This might make it both easy and difficult to recognise her objects, and her pictures might be both simple and complex at the same time.

Much of our scientific work is to observe minute details in our chosen organisms. Looking at amphipods scientifically means looking for serrations along curved ridges, counting small hairs (seta) and seeing if they have split ends, looking at shapes of mouthparts and lengths of feet and antennae, and documenting this with photos and drawings.

Example of scientific drawing of  mouthparts.  Exitomelita sigynae Tandberg, Rapp et al, 2011

Example of scientific drawing of
mouthparts. Exitomelita sigynae
Tandberg, Rapp et al, 2011

Having the luck and joy of seeing these same organisms represented artistically can give an added dimension to our work. It also gives the possibility for all the rest of you to get another gate to come in contact with our organisms through.

Maybe taking both views into account will help us learn and understand even more? The scientific and artistic views can supplement each other, and have been doing so already for generations.

Metopa boecki  (live) Photo:  Anne Helene Tandberg

Metopa boecki (live) Photo: Anne Helene Tandberg

The collaboration between Pippip and Anne Helene continues – yesterday Pippip visited the Invertebrate Lab, to get new ideas and inspirations for further artistic examinations… We are sure more beautiful, inspiring and maybe provoking representations of marine life will continue to come from this collaboration. Be sure to follow us!

– Anne Helene and Pippip