Category Archives: NorAmph

Fieldwork at Sletvik Fieldstation!

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winter Wonderland! Photo credits Cessa Rauch

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

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

 

-Cessa

Scavengers in the ocean

Lysianassoid amphipods from a trap in Raudfjorden, Svalbard. Photo: AHS Tandberg

Most animals are sloppy eaters. They have their favourite piece of food that they go for, and then they leave the rest. This allows for others to pick up where others leave. One of the laws of ecology is that “there is no such thing as an empty ecological niche”. That can be translated to “where there is a food-source (or a place to live) someone or something will use that food-source (or place to live). And that gets us to the sloppy eaters out there, and not least the animals picking up after all the sloppy eaters.

From the pigeons crowding under your cafe-table for your panini-crumbs to the rats in our sewers, our “local scavengers” tend to be animals we feel slightly uncomfortable around. Is it different with the scavengers we dont see so often? It does not seem that way. Vultures  are not the most popular birds, even the word “vulture” has a negative connotation – and we mainly use it in its non-bird meaning.

How about the scavengers of the sea? As on land, we have many different animal-groups that can be classified as scavengers. Many of the marine scavengers are invertebrates (even if some fishes also scavenge). Let us look at the scavenging Lysianassoid amphipods. Are these as little loved in our world as the rats and vultures seem to be?

A typical lysianassoid amphipod. Photo: AHS Tandberg

Lysianassoid amphipods can mostly be distinguished from other amphipods by their “telescope-like” antennae: a very fat inner article with the two next looking like a collapsed old fashioned radio-antenna; two short rings. We know that the antennae of crustaceans are often used to “smell” things in the water – food or mates or possibly even enemies. It is not thought that the radio-antenna-shape of the Lysianassoid antenna specifically has to do with being a scavenger, as other amphipods and indeed several other crustaceans not having such an antenna are also scavengers. But most Lysianassoids have that antennae, and it makes for an easy first-sorting for the scientist. (Getting further – towards a genus, or even species name on the other hand, is not so easy).

Other general traits in most Lysianassoids, are the smooth exterior, and their high swimming abilities. Both are good if you need to get to some leftover food-source fast, and to “dive” into the food-source while not getting stuck through the entry.

Leftovers of bait (polarcod) after 24 hrs in the trap. Not much left for dinner… Photo: AHS Tandberg

And this is where many Lysianassoids loose out when it comes to human appreciation. They seem to love to scavenge on fish caught in fishnets and traps, and both professional and hobby fishers don’t like to share their catch. We dont think it is very appetising to find our fish-dinner “infested” by non-fish. I am quite sure the scavengers being pulled up with their lovely find of dead or dying fish also are not pleased with having to share their dinner with us.

Lysianassoid scavenging amphipods are the focus of our NBIC-financed project NorAmph2. Here, we will collect and register what different species are present in Norway, and we will try to barcode them. These are quite tricky animals to identify properly, but luckily we have teamed up with the best lysianassoid-expert we know – Tammy Horton from the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, UK.

We use baited traps to collect: put some lovely, smelly fish out there and see who comes to dine. So far, we have collected from Svalbard in the north to Kong Haakon VIIs Hav in the south, and from the intertidal to the deep. They are often many, and the size-variation is great. We look forward to continuing finding out what species we have, and to see if what morphologically seems one species really is (only) one species genetically. (This previous blog-post (in Norwegian) tells the story about one scavenging amphipod that turned out to be 15 (or maybe even more!) separate species)

Anne Helene

Why study boring amphipoda and other strange taxa?

Bircenna thieli seen from the front and the side. SEM photo, Fig 6 in Hughes and Lörz, 2019.

This question (or a version of it) is something a lot of us taxonomists are faced with quite often when we try to explain what we do for a living. And I do understand the need to ask – couldn´t our talents be used better doing something it might be easier to understand the use of? We think the study of taxonomy is higly important, and does bring about useful knowledge for the world. Therefore, we have several taxonomic projects in our group, and we write about them here in the blog. (If you read norwegian, you can read about our projects here)

 

March 19th was the world Taxonomist Appreciation Day – a day we have “celebrated” since 2013. Why do we need this day? Taxonomy is the science of naming, defining, describing, cataloguing, identifying and classifying groups of biological organisms. We do this in labs and on fieldwork, and the natural history museums (these days represented from our home offices) have a special responsibility for this work, since one part of the formal description of a taxon is to designate a type and store that in a museum collection. We will come back to the importance of types in a later blog here.

Terry McGlynn, the professor and blogger who initiated the Taxonomist Appreciation Day wrote: ” I want to declare a new holiday! If you’re a biologist, no matter what kind of work you do, there are people in your lives that have made your work possible. Even if you’re working on a single-species system, or are a theoretician, the discoveries and methods of systematists are the basis of your work. Long before mass sequencing or the emergence of proteomics, and other stuff like that, the foundations of bioinformatics were laid by systematists. We need active work on taxonomy and systematics if our work is going to progress, and if we are to apply our findings. Without taxonomists, entire fields wouldn’t exist. We’d be working in darkness.”

Every year a large number of new taxa are described – last year almost 2000 of the new species described were marine. March 19th every year, the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) and LifeWatch publish their favourite 10 marine species described in the previous year, and this year – corona-shutdown and all – was no exception.

All ten new species are fun, beautiful and remarkable – but Polyplacotoma mediterranea Osigus & Schierwater, 2019 deserves special mentioning. P. mediterranea is the third species described ever in the phylum Placozoa – who are viewed as one of the key-taxa to understand early animal evolution. They were first described in 1883 (by Schulze), and the name Placozoa indicated what they looked like: small (around 1 mm for the largest of the specimens) platelike animals. 2018 saw the second species of placozoans described – genetically, as it was impossible to separate morphologically – but then our new placozoan came – and it is 10mm large, is branched, and has its natural habitat in the mediterranean intertidal! Phylum Placozoa will never be the same again, and our understanding of the early evolution of animals has become even more interesting.

 

What then about the boring amphipods? Or course they are not boring as in saying they are dull! The “boring amphipod” Bircenna thieli Hughes & Lörz, 2019 bores in the sense that they excavate tunnels into the stem of the common bull kelp Durvillaea potatorum (Labillardière) Areschoug, 1854 in the intertidal and shallow waters by Tasmania.

Bircenna thieli has a head almost like an ant, and a quite unusual shape of its back-body. Fig 8 from Hughes and Lörz, 2019

Their head has an ant-like ball-shape unlike many other amphipods where the head is more ornate or has a visible rostrum, but the exciting morphology comes at the other end of the animal – where the telson and last segment have structures never seen before in amphipods, and structures that only other vegetation-boring amphipods show.

So why do we think describing tiny animals, plants, fungi, bacteria and other organisms is so important? Let us ask you back: how can you appreciate what you have and care about what might be lost if you dont know who they are?

Anne Helene

(this post was written March 19th, but posted later..)


Literature:
Eitel M, Osigus H-J, DeSalle R, Schierwater B (2013) Global Diversity of the Placozoa. PLoS ONE 8(4): e57131. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057131

Hughes, L.E.; Lörz, A.-N. (2019). Boring Amphipods from Tasmania, Australia (Eophliantidae: Amphipoda: Crustacea). Evolutionary Systematics 3(1): 41-52. https://doi.org/10.3897/evolsyst.3.35340

Osigus, H.-J.; Rolfes, S.; Herzog, R.; Kamm, K.; Schierwater, B. (2019). Polyplacotoma mediterranea is a new ramified placozoan species. Current Biology 29(5): R148-R149. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2019.01.068


Do you want to find out more about Taxonomist Appreciation Day or about all the 10 exciting species?

Ten remarkable new marine species from 2019

Today is Taxonomist Appreciation Day!

A compendium of taxonomists on ORCID

and not least –  you can still follow the #TaxonomistAppreciationDay on Twitter (and be prepared for 2021!)

Some hydroids, four naturalists, and a small island in the North Sea

NorHydro partner (and hydrozoan expert) Joan J. Soto Àngel from the Sars International Centre for Marine Molecular Biology went in a sampling trip to Kinn to collect benthic hydroids. Here is an account of his experience in this trip:

Kinn is a small grassy island on the western Norwegian coast. Today it is a quiet, peaceful place with only a few inhabitants, but in the past it was an important fishing town and the center of the cultural and religious life of the area, as evidenced by its imposing medieval stone church (Kinnakyrkja). The island is also a place of historical relevance for biologists, since it is intimately tied to the life and discoveries of one of the most prominent naturalists of the XIX century, Michael Sars, who worked as a priest in Kinnakyrkja for many years.

Here I am, ready to sample! The island behind is Kinn, easy to recognize thanks to its characteristic cleft silhouette. Picture: Cessa Rauch

The islands in the area face the ocean and are rather exposed, so the vegetation is not particularly tall, but the waters are teeming with life. Picture: Joan J. Soto

The XIX century Norwegian naturalist Michael Sars. Picture from Wikicommons (public domain)

Sars described many species inhabiting the waters around Kinn and also made key observations about their distribution and life cycle. Indeed, he was the first to discover that jellyfish and polyps are in fact different stages of the same animals!

This finding led him to be recognized as an outstanding zoologist of his time. Even now, ca 200 years after, his extensive work is regularly consulted by researchers of many fields. Like me and the other participants of the Artsdatabanken project NorHydro, Sars was fascinated by the group we call Hydrozoa, which is why it was very interesting for our project to join a sampling trip of the University Museum of Bergen in the same waters where he sampled and described many hydroids, hydromedusae and siphonophores.

Because Sars was also interested in other critters of the sea besides hydrozoans, it was only natural to make this sampling trip a joint, collaborative effort. In our case, three marine scientists were involved, each representing a different project: I was in charge of the hydrozoans for NorHydro, while Anne Helene Solberg Tandberg focused on amphipods (NorAmph2) and Cessa Rauch concentrated on sea slugs (Sea Slugs of Southern Norway). But we did not limit ourselves to our favorite animal groups; we also sampled some poychaetes, bryozoans, ascidians and echinoderms for two other projects based at UMB, Hardbunnsfauna and AnDeepNor. In addition, while we sampled extensively the waters around Kinn, we also stopped in the way to the island and back and collected some animals in two other localities in the coast of Sogn og Fjordane. Our efforts paid off and, despite some windy weather, we came home with many specimens to analyze and samples to sort.

Three more contemporary naturalists working for different projects: Joan (left, NorHydro), Cessa (middle, Sea Slugs of Southern Norway), and Anne Helene (right, NorAmph2). Picture: Joan J. Soto

For the hydrozoans, the majority of samples consisted in colonies of hydroids belonging to the families Sertulariidae, Haleciidae and Campanulariidae. This was not surprising as Sertulariidae (sensu lato) is the largest and most diverse family in all Hydrozoa, and their conspicuous colonies are relatively easy to recognize and collect. The haleciids are represented in Norway mainly by species of Halecium, whose colonies are among the largest benthic hydrozoans of the country. As for the campanulariids, particularly those belonging to genera Obelia, Laomedea and Clytia, they are common inhabitants of rocky and mixed bottoms all around the world, and are especially conspicuous when growing on macroalgae such as kelp. To correctly identify some of these specimens, we will look closely at their morphological characteristics and will also employ molecular techniques of DNA analysis. Hopefully this approach will help us understand the diversity of benthic hydroids living around Kinn, and will allow us to determine whether the species that we encountered are the same that Sars studied.

Dynamena pumila was one of the most conspicuous species of hydroid that we collected in this trip. It belongs to the speciose family Sertulariidae.

We were very lucky to have the help of the crew of RV Hans Brattström. This is how the command center of the boat looks like!

You’ll find the results of these and other NorHydro’s analyses here in the blog as we progress, and more updates on the project can be found on the Hydrozoan Science facebook page and in Twitter with the hashtag #NorHydro.

– Joan


References and related literature about Michael Sars

Tandberg AHS, L Martell (2018) En uimodstaaelig lyst til naturens studium. Yearbook of the University Museum of Bergen: 17 – 26.

Sars M (1835) Beskrivelser og Iagttagelser over nogle mærkelige eller nye i Havet ved den Bergenske Kyst levende Dyr af polypernes, acalephernes, radiaternes, annelidernes, og molluskernes classer. Thorstein Hallagers forlag, Bergen.

Windsor MP (1976) Starfish, jellyfish and the order of life. Issues in Nineteenth-Century Science. Yale University Press, New Haven. 228 pp

Door #13: The story you can find in a picture…

It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words. We use both drawings and photos (and sometimes even films) when we are describing species, and without these illustrations, we would often have to make guesses as to what the author meant when describing the morphology of the species in interest.

Generally, the old literature did not make as much room for illustrations as we have the possibility to do today – the printing often needed entire plates (pages) produced much in the same way an artist still produces a carved or engraved print today – and when there is a plate in an old publication it quite often is a piece of art. But – the plates (figure-pages) were expensive to print (even more than the text-pages), and thus often limited to the bare necessities.

There are exceptions! C. Spence Bate and J. O. Westwood (both with so many letters behind their names that they included “etc” at the front page) commissioned J van Voorst in London to print  their book “ A History of the British Sessile-Eyed Crustacea” in two volumes. The first came in 1863, the second in 1868.

And it is enjoyable reading. “Sessile-eyed” crustaceans are explained as those crustaceans who do not have stalked eyes (as for instance the crabs and shrimp have) and it was used to classify crustaceans since Leach in 1814 named the gruop “Edriophthalma” (sessile-eyed in greek). This group included Isopods and Amphipods – but the discussion was still going strong about what taxa should be included in these groups, and how they were “connected” with the other crustaceans. The gentlemen Bate and Westwood decided to describe and discuss each of the species they knew of as sessile-eyed in Britain. This would be a basis for the further discussions on higher groupings. Interspersed in the text are figures of the species and special morphological structures they are discussing, making the book easy to follow and understand. An introduction on the general morphology, physiology, reproductive biology and geographical distribution of the sessile-eyed crustaceans, the rest of part 1 discusses the Amphipoda.

They really mention every species they have come across – ever – from anywhere in Britain. Sometimes that may be one single specimen of what they think must be a new genus and species (and that seems to have been forgotten later),  and in addition to the drawings of the morphology they add a drawing of the location where it was found.

It is at the end of volume 1 that we come to the picture that captures my imagination the most. Under the discussion of Corophium longicorne  (accepted name: Corophium volutator) they discuss the extraordinary strong second antennae of the species:

“The inferior antennas are very powerful, and in the male are longer than the animal itself; the pentultimate joint of the peduncle being armed upon the inferior distal extremity with a strong tooth, which appears to assist considerably in holding any object when the extremity of the antennae is folded upon itself; this organ appearing to possess the strongest prehensile power, and being no doubt used as a weapon of offence in its battles with other animals in its struggle for existence.”

Corophium are known from sandy and muddy shores – where they “dwell in small tubular galleries, excavated in the mud, over which the tide flows and ebbs”.  They go on to discuss their ecology – as predators of other shore-living invertebrates.

They cite “Rambles of a Naturalist” of Quaterfages on the feeding habits of this fierce amphipod:
at about the end of April they come from the open sea in myriads (they are called Pernis by the fishermen of the coast of Saintoge) to wage war with the annelids, which they entirely destroy before the end of May; they then attack the mollusca and fish all through summer, and disappear in a single night about the end of October, and return again the following year.

Bate and Westwood do not follow up the story from Quaterfages with any other documentation, but they ask their readers to send them more data if they have. Corophium volutator was described already in 1766 by Pallas, and is found on sandy or muddy beaches all around the North Sea. Maybe you will see a battle between a Corophium and an annelid? All later research into this species and the close group of related amphipods show us that these are detrivorous (eating organic matter from the mud where it lives). We might never know what inspired the fishermen that Quaterfages talked to. But if you see something like this, we would really like to know!

-Anne Helene

Literature:
Bate CS, Westwood JO.1863. A history of the British Sessile-Eyed Crustacea. Part 1. John van Voorst, London (Paternoster Row). 580 pp.

Door #9: To catch an Amphipod

As many of you might have read earlier in this blog, the projects NorAmph and Hypno have been regularly sampling in Hjeltefjorden for the past year. As a part of my master thesis, I was lucky to be able to come with! My thesis will be about amphipods and their seasonal variety in Hjeltefjorden, which is super exiting!

The RP-sled used for the sampling.

For each time we go out, we sample with a RP-sled, a WP3 plankton net and we collect CTD data. The samples from the RP-sled will be used for my thesis and other projects if we find something interesting. During the last year we collected samples 9 times, which has given us some great days out at sea!

During these cruises we have had lots of fun! We have had cake, snacks and regularly done yoga on deck! We have been mostly lucky with the weather (except for our original cruise day in February, which had to be moved due to lots of wind, which you can read about here: Solskinnstokt)

 

A great view from our February cruise, with a clear blue sky and no wind! (Photo: K. Kongshavn)

We have been mostly lucky in getting great samples!

Lots of exciting material to get our hands on! (photo: AH Tandberg)

But sometimes not so lucky…

It is not easy to be a happy master student when the codend is almost empty… (Photo: AH Tandberg)

In October we had our last cruise, which was a great end to a year of sampling! We were not as lucky with the weather this time, but the samples look very nice. We also had cake to celebrate the last cruise day!

A great view in Hjeltefjorden (Photo: C. Østensvig)

Coffee breaks on deck are always important! (Photo: AH Tandberg)

It is somewhat sad to be done with the sampling, but with all the material collected, it is time to hit the lab! With all the samples, I sort out and identify all the amphipods I find. So far, I have found lots of cool amphipods, and I am starting to see some patterns in the material.

Here are some of the Amphipods I have found. All photos: K. Kongshavn

My work in the lab is far from done, and I am excited to look for new cool amphipods and hopefully find something interesting in their seasonal variation.

-Christine

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 # 6: The key to the question

We often say that without knowing the species you examine, you really can’t know a lot about whatever it is you are examining. But how do you get from knowing for example “this is an amphipod” to knowing “this is Amphilochoides serratipes”?

Three different Amphilochidae from Iceland

Most researchers would usually stop at the “this is an amphipod”-stage, and many specialists  would call it a day at “this amphipod belongs to the familily Amphilochidae”. but then there are the one or two researchers who have gone on to specialise in this family (I think there are three of us in the world at the moment).

But finally – those days are over!
As a special gift on this Nicholaus-day when all German colleagues get a special gift from St Nicholaus (who is Father Christmas) we present to all of you – regardless of nationality or faith:

The interactive and illustrated key to the NorthEast Atlantic species of Amphilochidae

The key is a product of a collaboration between the NorAmph-project and the German-lead IceAGE project that examines benthic animals around Iceland, and the technical production and web-hosting of the key is from the Norwegian Taxonomy Initiative (Artsprosjekt) (who – we have to say – also have financed the NorAmph-project!) Hurrah for a great collaboration!

Figure 14 from Tandberg et al

You might still wonder what an Amphilochid amphipod is?

The family Amphilochidae are amphipods that are quite small (1-6mm in length) and quite stout. They are not extremely good swimmers, though much of that can be from their small size – and from their short appendages. They can be found all over the world, and are common at many depths in our cold waters. Even though they are small and easily overlooked, they sometimes occur in relatively large numbers, and can contribute significantly to both the biomass and diversity of a sample. They have been found on hydrothermal vents at the southern part of the Mid-Atlantic ridge, and some have been found as loose associates of other invertebrates.

Also – they are quite cute, don’t you think?  Good luck with the identification!

-Anne Helene

Literature:

Brix S et. al. 2018. Amphipod family distributions around Iceland. ZooKeys 731: 1-53. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.731.19854

Tandberg AHS, Vader W 2018. On a new species of Amphilochus from deep and cold Atlantic waters, with a note on the genus Amphilochopsis (Amphipoda, Gammaridea; Amphilochidae). ZooKeys 731: 103-134. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.731.19899

Guest researcher: Marla

Marla, who has been visiting several times to work on our amphipod collections, sent us this “travelogue” from her longest stay. In her own words:

I am a third year PhD student, and my project is shared between the University of Southampton at the National Oceanography centre and the Natural History Museum in London. I am supervised by Dr Tammy Horton (NOC), Dr Andrew Gates (NOC), Dr Phil Fenberg (UoS), Dr Miranda Lowe (NHM), and Dr Andrea Waschenbach (NHM).

I spent 8 glorious weeks in Bergen working with the invertebrate collections at the Department of Natural History of the University Museum of Bergen (UiB) together with the wonderful Anne Helene Tandberg and Endre Willassen. Also a massive thank you to Katrine Kongshavn, Morten Stokkan, Jon Kongsrud, Luis Felipe Martell Hernández, Aino Hosia, Tom Alvestad, Nataliya Budaeva, Manuel Malaquias, Louise Lindbloom, and Kenneth Meland for your help in the lab and support with my project and lunchtime conversations!

I arrived to Bergen mid- September just in time for the 2017 UCI Road World Championships! As a huge fan (and very amateur road cyclist) this was such a bonus to have the chance to see it. The race took over the town, and one late afternoon Anne Helene and I climbed half-way up Mount Fløyen to watch the men’s Time Trial. The sun was out, the streets were packed, atmosphere was electric and we had prime seats–I couldn’t wait to see Chris Frome (GB) and Tom Dumoulin (NL) cycling in action.  It was a fantastic afternoon!

Anne Helene and I enjoying the afternoon UCI race from our prime viewing spot

The classic road graffiti to show support to the cyclists. Here Tom Dumoulin is forever immortalized on Mount Fløyen.

Tom Dumoulin won first place in the men’s Time Trial, Chris Froome took third.

Back in the lab…

I was working with amphipods from the family Phoxocephalidae from the Western African Waters, focussing particularly on the amphipods from the sub-family Harpiniinae [crustacea; Amphipoda; Phoxocephalidae; Harpiniinae]. Phoxocephalid amphipods are highly speciose and abundant in deep sea sediments globally. Species identity is critical to understanding mechanisms driving observed biodiversity patterns and to asses community change. The aim of the project while in Bergen was to use both DNA barcoding and traditional morphological taxonomic approaches in order to create a robust library of Phoxocephalidae species from the poorly known West African waters. Large scale projects such as Marine Invertebrates of West Africa (MIWA) provide the perfect opportunity for collaborative work! More about the MIWA-project can be found here.

The MIWA project submitted over 2700 tissue samples from over 600 morphospecies for DNA barcode sequencing, including Crustaceans, Echinoderms, Molluscs and Polychaetes. Out of these, 45 samples were from the family Phoxocephalidae, the target taxa. Working with Dr Anne Helene Tandberg and Prof Endre Willassen, the sequenced MIWA Phoxcephalid voucher specimens were dissected and mounted as permanent microscope slides to morphologically score them. Later, the phylogenetic analysis based on all molecular and morphological characters will be compared. Each appendage was photographed on the modular (Leica CTR6000) microscope and the images were stacked, resulting in incredible photos!

Harpinia abyssi P7. Photo: M. Spencer

As a result of some of this work, we think that we have identified 4 new species to the genus of Basuto. The genus was previously monotypic, with the type-locality in South Africa. Now we are awaiting the holotypes and paratypes to arrive so that we can compare. Together with Anne Helene, Endre Willassen and Tammy Horton, I am currently writing my first publication, formally describing these specimens as new species. Stay tuned for further updates!

Basuto specimen pereopod 5. Photo: M. Spencer

Basuto specimen Mandible, Photo: M. Spencer

At work in the DNA lab

Working with Anne Helene within the molecular biology labs at the University of Bergen, I had the chance to develop taxon specific primers and PCR conditions for the Harpiniinae MIWA specimens which were not successfully sequenced with the Universal primers. As a starting point, an additional 13 MIWA specimens had tissue extracted for DNA, and then dissected and permanent slides were made in order to morphologically score them. Each appendage was photographed and the images stacked. The primers and PCR conditions are a work in progress; however, this was a very successful trip resulting in a lot of data to analyse!

I also had the chance to explore the fantastic city of Bergen! I absolutely loved my time spent here- I generated a lot of data and learned so many new skills and new insight into my PhD project. Win-win! I look forward to returning again one day.

-Marla

The amphipods around Iceland – fresh special issue

IceAGE stations with amphipods. Red stations are analysed in the special issue. Fig 1 from Brix et al 2018

As the IceAGE-project presents their amphipod results in a special issue of ZooKeys, the invertebrate collections are represented with co-authors in 4 of the 6 papers. All papers in the special issue are of course Open Access.

Endre, Anne Helene and IceAGE-collaborators Anne-Nina and Amy have examined the Rhachotropis species (family Eusiroidea) from Norwegian and Icelandic waters, using material both from NorAmph and IceAGE. We see possible cryptic species, and we described to separate populations (and Arctic and one North Atlantic) of Rhachotropis aculeata.

Rhachotropis aff. palporum from IceAGE material. Fig 4G in Lörz et al, photographer: AHS Tandberg

Anne Helene has worked with Wim Vader from Tromsø Museum on Amphilochidae. The new species Amphilochus anoculus is formally described, and amphipod identifiers working with North-Atlantic material will be happy fo find a key to all Amphilochidae in the area. These minute and fragile animals are often lumped as family only, but the times for that are now over…

Key to the Amphilochidae from North Atlantic waters. Fig 14 from Tandberg & Vader 2018

Neighbour Joining tree of COI-sequences from IceAGE. The coloured lines on the side show possible interesting regions for further studies. Fig. 2 from Jazdzewska et al 2018

A paper on DNA fingerprinting of Icelandic amphipods is presented by Ania (who visited us two years ago to work on Phoxocephalid amphipods) and 10 coauthors. This study gives a very nice material to compare with the NorAmph barcodes, and some of the interesting results are discussed in the two first papers.

A summary-paper on the amphipod-families around Iceland (Brix et al) gives an overview of both biogeography and ecology of the amphipods in this area. This paper also presents faunistic data on Amphilochidae from the earlier BioIce project, where researchers from Bergen, Trondheim and Reykjavik sampled Icelandic waters.

Anne Helene

 

 

Literature:

Brix S, Lörz A-N, Jazdzweska AM, Hughes LE, Tandberg AHS, Pabis K, Stransky B, Krapp-Schickel T, Sorbe JC, Hendrycks E, Vader W, Frutos I, Horton T, Jazdzewski K, Peart R, Beermann J, Coleman CO, Buhl-Mortensen L, Corbari L, Havermans C, Tato R, Campean AJ (2018) Amphipod family distributions around Iceland. ZooKeys 731: 1-53 doi:10.3897/zookeys.731.19854

Jazszewska AM, Corbari L, Driskell A, Frutos I, Havermans C, Hendrycks E, Hughes L, Lörz A-N, Stransky B, Tandberg AHS, Vader W, Brix S (2018) A genetic fingerprint of Amphipoda from Icelandic waters – the baseline for further biodiversity and biogeography studies. ZooKeys 731: 55-73 doi:10.3897/zookeys.731.19913

Lörz A-N, Tandberg AHS, Willassen E, Driskell A (2018) Rhachotropis (Eusiroidea, Amphipoda) from the North East Atlantic. ZooKeys 731: 75-101 doi:10.3897/zookeys.731.19814

Tandberg AHS, Vader W (2018) On a new species of Amphilochus from deep and cold Atlantic waters, with a note on the genus Amphilochopsis (Amphipoda, Gammaridea, Amphilochidae). ZooKeys 731: 103-134 doi:10.3897/zookeys.731.19899