Category Archives: NorHydro

Invertebrates in harbours

Harbours and marinas are interesting places to look for marine creatures. These environments are usually teeming with life, but a closer look often reveals that their communities are strikingly different from the ones living in adjacent natural areas. Piers and pontoons offer new surfaces for many algae and animals to grow, and the maritime traffic of large and small boats allow for an intense movement of organisms, making harbours some of the preferred spots for newcomers (what we called introduced species) to settle. Many surprises can be expected when sampling for invertebrates in these man-made habitats, which is why our artsprosjekt NorHydro teamed up with project PolyPorts (based at the NTNU University Museum) to explore the hidden diversity of worms and hydroids in the Norwegian harbours.

I was very happy to collect polyps in sunny Southern Norway.

Last year, PolyPorts sampled extensively in some of the main Norwegian harbours (including Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim, and Stavanger); but for this year’s sampling season our two projects headed first south (to the harbours and marinas of Sørlandet), and then west (to Bergen).

In the south, we sampled several ports and marinas from Kristiansand to Brevik (including Lillesand, Grimstad, Tvedestrand, and Risør, thus covering a large portion of southern Norway). In Vestlandet we concentrated our efforts in the area of the port of Bergen, Puddefjorden and Laksevåg, as well as Dolvika.

 

Although it could be surprising that heavily trafficked (and sometimes quite polluted) harbours support a high diversity of invertebrates, this was actually the case for every single port we surveyed.

All our sampling areas had pontoon pilings and mooring chains covered in colourful seaweeds and animals, and reefs of native and introduced mussels and oysters that provided a home for sea squirts, skeleton shrimps, bryozoans and hydroids. For NorHydro, perhaps the most surprising result came from the brackish areas that we analyzed, where large populations of Cordylophora caspia were found. This species is not native to Norway and had not been observed in so many Norwegian localities before, making for an interesting finding to explore even further through the analysis of DNA.

– Luis

Keep up with the activities of NorHydro here in the blog, on the project’s facebook page and in Twitter with the hashtag #NorHydro.

Many hands (plus some tentacles and legs) make light work

In the last months, our project NorHydro has been very busy with sampling trips and outreach; we have been collecting hydroids in Southern Norway, presenting our results in festivals, and hunting for hydrozoans inside mythical monsters as well as around Bergen, the project’s hometown. All of these activities sound like a lot of work, and they certainly take a fair amount of time and effort, but the good thing is that NorHydro has never been alone in its quest for knowledge of the marine creatures: on the contrary, this has been the season of collaborations and synergies for our project!

At the end of August, for example, we attended the marine-themed festival Passion for Ocean; where we shared the stand of the University Museum of Bergen with a bunch of colleagues, all working on several kinds of marine creatures, from deep sea worms and sharks to sea slugs and moss-animals. It was a great opportunity to talk to people outside academia (including children!) about our work at the museum, and also to show living animals to an audience that does not venture too often into the sea.

Our stand at the Passion for Ocean festival was incredibly popular with the public – we feel like most of the 5-6000 people who attended P4O must have dropped by to talk to us! Photos: K. Kongshavn and M. Hosøy

Although most of the people in Bergen are familiar with jellyfish, very few of them would know that most jellies are produced by flower-looking animals living in the bottom of the ocean, so the participation of NorHydro was met with a lot of surprise and curiosity. The festival was a big success (you can read a more about the experience in the Norwegian version of the blog), and hopefully we will get the chance to join again next year.

 

 

 

Later on, in September, we set off for a field trip to the northerly area of Saltstraumen, in the vicinity of the Arctic city of Bodø. For this trip NorHydro was again in collaboration with the UMB-based project “Hardbunnfauna” (Jon and Katrine represented the hard-bottom dwelling invertebrate fauna scientists) and also with Torkild Bakken (from NTNU University Museum, with his project “#Sneglebuss”). For me, Saltstraumen was definitely an exciting place to go; the strong currents of Saltstraumen have been the cause of death of too many sailors and seamen in the past, so in the collective mind the area has become some sort of man-eating whirlpool similar to the Mediterranean Charybdis… I don’t get to sample inside a mythological creature very often! Underneath the water though, Saltstraumen is teeming with life.

Saltstraumen looks stunning and inviting when seen from the coast.

Sampling the littoral zone within the Polar Circle

During this trip, we were prepared to sample in the littoral zone (and we did), but more importantly we were lucky enough to meet several enthusiast citizen and professional scientists that were diving in the area and shared with us some of their observations.

We were treated to extremely nice underwater pictures of invertebrates by Bernard Picton and Erling Svensen, and all the participants in the activities of the local diving club (Saltstraumen Dykkecamp) were very keen in providing us with suggestions, animals, images and impressions that made our sampling trip a total success.

 

The area was dubbed as a “hydroid paradise” (likely due to the strong currents that favor the development of large hydrozoan colonies), and many new records and even perhaps new species are present in the region.

For those of you that know Norwegian, you can read another interesting account of our trip here, and there is even a small service covering our adventures filmed by the regional TV channel NRK Nordland here.

The TV service is worth a look to see the beautiful underwater images of the Norwegian coast even if you’re not familiar with the language!

– Luis

Royal hydrozoans and noble snails at Her Majesty the Queen of the fjords

As part of our continuous quest for hydrozoans and snails, we (Luis and Justine) recently embarked on a trip to the mighty Hardangerfjord on board the RV Hans Brattström. This is an area that we at the museum are keen to explore, since there have not been many sampling efforts in Hardanger in recent years, at least not after the joint survey carried out in the years 1955–1963 and in which Hans Brattström himself (the scientist, not the ship) took part. The Hardangerfjord has changed a lot since the 1960s, developing into one of the major fish-farming regions of Norway while at the same time retaining its touristic and agricultural vocation, so it is very interesting to come back and see if and how the invertebrate communities have also changed.

Our trip started with warm summer temperatures and clear skies…

…but it quickly turned into a more ‘typical’ western Norwegian weather. Fortunately we were prepared for the rain!

The Queen of the fjords, as Hardangerfjord is sometimes known, is the second longest fjord in Norway and the fourth longest in the world, which means that we had quite a lot of ground to cover in our two day-trip if we wanted to have at least a brief look at the diversity of habitats and animals living in its waters. For this trip, we settled for a sampling scheme involving 9 stations distributed in the middle and outer parts of Hardanger, and we decided to leave the innermost part of the fjord for a future occasion. We looked at the animals living in the bottom of the fjord (benthos), the water column (plankton) and also deployed a couple of traps in order to catch specific critters. We explored rocky sites, sandy bottoms, muddy plains and kelp beds, and found an interesting array of animals in all our samples.

The samples came from the deployed amphipod traps, triangular dredge, and plankton net.

Some of the animals we saw (most of them were actually returned to the sea):

Without any doubt, the highlights of our trip were the snail Scaphander lignarius and the hydrozoans Eudendrium sp. and Laodicea sp. The colonies of Eudendrium sp. were relatively abundant in shell- and rock-dominated bottoms, but their small size and not reproductive status prevented us from identifying them to species level right away. For a correct identification, we now have to look closely at the stinging cells (nematocysts) of the hydroids, and of course we will also try to get the DNA barcode of some of the specimens. Unlike Eudendrium sp., which lives in the bottom of the sea, our specimens of Laodicea sp. were swimming around in the water column. This species is interesting because previous DNA analysis have shown that, although they look like each other, different species of Laodicea coexist in Norwegian waters, so we are looking forward to obtain the DNA barcode of the jellies from Hardanger to compare it with the sequences we have from other parts of Norway.

. A polyp of Eudendrium sp. (left) and the hydromedusa of Laodicea sp. (right)

Scaphander lignarius was quite the surprise finding. We really wanted to collect some individuals, but our hopes were not very high and we were mostly convinced that we would not see any during our trip. Luckily for us, there were several of them happily crawling around the mud in two of our stations! S. lignarius is one of the few representatives of the Scaphandridae family in Norway. This family of bubble snails is of particular interest to us to study the biogeography and speciation process of invertebrates in the deep sea on a worldwide scale, since members of the family are distributed all around the world, and most tend to inhabit depths below 500m. Sampling some of them will definitely help that project!

Two views of Scaphander lignarius

All around, this was a quite successful sampling trip, with many specimens collected to be added to the Museum Collections, and which will be very useful to many different research projects!

– Justine and Luis

PS: You can find more updates on our Artsdatabanken project NorHydro here in the blog, on the project’s facebook page and in Twitter with the hashtag #NorHydro.

 References and related literature about the survey of the Hardangerfjors in 1955–1963

Braarud T (1961) The natural history of the Hardangerfjord, Sarsia, 1:1, 3-6.

Brattegard T (1966) The natural history of the Hardangerfjord 7. Horizontal distribution of the fauna of rocky shores, Sarsia, 22:1, 1-54.

Lie U (1967) The natural history of the Hardangerfjord 8. Quantity and composition of the zooplankton, September 1955 – September 1956, Sarsia, 30:1, 49-74.

NorHydro in Japan: chronicles of the 9th Workshop of the Hydrozoan Society

Team NorHydro at the 9th Hydrozoan Society Workshop, from left to right: Joan J. Soto (UiB – Sars Center), Aino Hosia (UiB – UMB), Marta Ronowicz (IOPAN – Poland), and Luis Martell (UiB – UMB). Picture: Mitsuko Hidaka

Earlier this summer, the small Japanese cities of Enoshima and Shimoda became the chosen scenario for the celebration of the 9th Workshop of the Hydrozoan Society, one of the most important meetings of hydrozoan scientists in the world.

We were constantly amazed by the beauty of Japanese writing, and were happy to receive name tags with our names in katakana. During the workshop we also learned some important hydrozoan-related words in Japanese

 

This workshop is held every 3-4 years, and it offers everyone attending the opportunity to present his or her results, discuss new findings, collect some samples, and meet with other specialists in the group. Our Artsdatabanken project NorHydro is all about hydrozoans, so of course we could not miss this important event!

 

 

Selecting Enoshima and Shimoda as the venues for the workshop was a very fortunate decision. These cities are located in the area of the historically important Sagami Bay, where numerous studies of hydrozoans have taken place and from where many species of hydroids and hydromedusae have been described, which helped make this meeting a commemoration of previous hydrozoan studies in Japan.

Several renowned marine biologists, including Uchida, Yamada, and the late Emperor Hirohito dedicated their time and effort to study the hydrozoans of Sagami Bay, so during the workshop we felt like we were following their steps while collecting animals and comparing results.

The workshop included several different activities.

In Enoshima we visited the aquarium (just like Emperor Hirohito did many times) and we got to know the facilities where hydromedusae are kept and raised.

In Shimoda we went on and into the water to look for hydroids, hydromedusae and siphonophores that we then identified at the laboratories of the Shimoda Marine Research Center of Tsukuba University.

Also in Shimoda we sampled at the local aquarium, and it was in this city where the talks and poster sessions were held.

The workshop started with a visit to Enoshima Aquarium…

All in all, the participation of NorHydro in the workshop was very productive. We came back home with more than 30 samples that we will analyze and use to answer some questions that we are currently working on (did you know, for example, that the Japanese specimens of Nanomia bijuga may actually belong to a different species? We’ll see what our results suggest about this!).

We also received very positive feedback about the works we presented during the meeting, and we established some important collaborations with other hydrozoologists.

Some of the critters we observed during our time in Japan:

An even more exciting result of our participation was that the presidency of the Hydrozoan Society has now come to Norway, and NorHydro will be in charge of organizing the next Hydrozoan Society Workshop here in Bergen!

The Norwegian delegation, prepared for organizing the next Hydrozoan Society Workshop

– Luis

PS: Pictures of all the activities during the workshop can be found on the official facebook page of the Hydrozoan Society, and the entire event was tweeted with the hashtags #9HSworkshop, #HydrozoanSociety and #NorHydro.

 

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

NorHydro goes back to school

To the Research School in Biosystematics (ForBio), that is!

Last April, NorHydro participated in two events organized by ForBio (who is actually one of the partners of our project): the 2019 Annual ForBio Meeting and the ForBio and MEDUSA course “Zooplankton Communities – Taxonomy and Methods”. Both events were very productive and fun, here is the story:

The 2019 Annual ForBio Meeting was held in Trondheim. Many high-quality talks were delivered during this meeting and NorHydro received useful feedback from students and consolidated scientists from all the Nordic countries. It was particularly important for NorHydro to be present at the annual meeting, because together with ForBio we are planning a course on hydrozoan diversity and phylogeny in 2020, so the meeting in Trondheim was the perfect vehicle to advertise both the course and the activities and expected outcomes of the project.

I did not see any hydroid in Trondheim during the meeting, but the trees in the city center looked suspiciously like colonies of Obelia dichotoma. Pictures: Luis Martell

In addition to NorHydro, the University Museum of Bergen attended the meeting with interesting talks from some of our PhD students and guests, presenting diverse subjects as the phylogeny of the plant genus Potentilla (by Nannie Persson), morphological data of the polychaete family Lumbrineridae (by Polina Borisova), and the diversity of the marine snail genus Scaphander (by Justine Siegwald).

Snapshots of two of the UMB talks during the annual meeting: Luis presenting NorHydro (left) and Justine explaining the mysteries of Scaphander (right). Pictures: Nannie Persson

Later in the month, Aino, Joan and I participated as teachers in the course “Zooplankton Communities – Taxonomy and Methods”, an event organized by ForBio in collaboration with the DIKU-funded project MEDUSA. The course was packed with motivated students and beautiful specimens of gelatinous zooplankton, and we managed to collect some hydromedusae for NorHydro as well. The bloom of hydrozoans is more evident in the water column than anywhere else, since the reproductive season is in close relation with the increasing abundance of food items in the plankton (which in turn follows the spring bloom of microalgae), and our samples confirmed that spring is the perfect hydrozoan hunting season. Beautiful sunsets, friendly chats, and exciting lectures complemented the activities of the zooplankton course, making for a great month in the partnership of ForBio and NorHydro!

We caught some interesting jellies during the course, like these Leuckartiara octona (left), Tima bairdii (middle), and Halopsis ocellata (right). Pictures: Elena Degtyareva

Happy participants of the zooplankton course. From left to right: Raphaelle Descoteaux, Christina Jönander, Ksenia Kosobokova, Elena Temereva, Kyle Mayers, Luis Martell, Elena Degtyareva, Aino Hosia, Sanna Majaneva, Ksenia Smirnova, Ekaterina Nikitenko, Anna Shapkina. Joan Soto (right picture) explained how to keep ctenophores alive during the visit to the Ctenophore Facility of the Sars Centre. Pictures: Nataliya Budaeva, Luis Martell

– Luis

Spring time is hydrozoan time

Spring means warmer temperatures, increasing daylight, flowers blooming everywhere… and a lot of outdoor and outreach activities for our projects at the Invertebrate Collections of the museum! In particular, project NorHydro started last month with a kick-off workshop (read more about it here) and we have not stopped collecting specimens, attending conferences, teaching courses and joining sampling trips since then. But why is it that spring is such an important time for hydrozoans and NorHydro?

Well, for starters, spring is the reproductive season for many species of hydrozoans in Norwegian waters. Most Norwegian hydrozoans are seasonal animals and for many of them the increasing temperatures and daylight of March and April trigger a shift in the life cycle towards the production of reproductive stages.

Tiny hydromedusae were already being produced in many of the hydroids we collected, like these colonies of Sarsia tubulosa (left) and Obelia dichotoma (right). Pictures: Luis Martell

Colonies of Eudendrium vaginatum (left), Kirchenpaueria pinnata (middle), and Halecium halecinum (right). Photos: Luis Martell and Joan J. Soto Àngel

The reproductive stages are often necessary to correctly identify a hydroid colony to species level, so we took advantage of the season to collect the very first samples of the project during the kick-off workshop. More than 50 samples of hydrozoans were collected thanks to the efforts of all the participants, and special thanks are due to NorHydro’s team of hydrozoan experts for identifying the specimens and making for a great start of the project.

The hydrozoan team: Aino (left), Peter (in both pictures), and Joan (right), hanging around in the lab of the Marine Biological Station during the kick-off workshop. Pictures: Luis Martell

Peter Schuchert from the Natural History Museum of Geneva was a very special participant in this meeting, where he kindly shared his extensive expertise with us. Peter’s knowledge of hydrozoans is impressive, and it was a real pleasure to learn from him on everything from collecting methods to preservation techniques and species identities. Completing our team of experts were our very own Aino Hosia from the University Museum, who stopped by to share some of her experiences on hydrozoan diversity in the region, and Joan J. Soto Àngel from the Sars International Centre for Marine Molecular Biology, who collected many specimens and participated in several interesting discussions about the expected outcomes and potential subprojects of NorHydro.

Our samples were full of hydroids, most of which were documented and preserved for future DNA work. Pictures: Luis Martell and Joan J. Soto Àngel

Of course one of the great advantages for NorHydro during the workshop was the possibility to learn from the activities and results of our sister projects Sea Slugs of Southern Norway and Hardbunnfauna, and to share experiences with them and with the members of the university’s student dive club (SUB-BSI). With such amazing partners and professional collaborators, it was impossible for the kick-off workshop not to be a big success, so thank you all for giving NorHydro the best possible start!

We had all types of weather during the workshop, going from almost-summer to snowy-winter in the same day! Pictures: Luis Martell

Keep up with NorHydro here on the blog, as well as in the Facebook page of Hydrozoan Science  and in Twitter with the hashtag #NorHydro.

Luis

Workshop week at Espegrend field station

The final week of March was teeming with activity, as no less than three Norwegian Taxonomy Projects (Artsprosjekt) from the Invertebrate Collections arranged a workshop and fieldwork in the University of Bergen’s Marine biological field station in Espegrend.

The projects – Sea Slugs of Southern Norway(SSoSN), Norwegian Hydrozoa (NorHydro) and Invertebrate fauna of marine rocky shallow-water habitats: species mapping and DNA barcoding (Hardbunnfauna) fortunately overlap quite a bit in where and how we find our animals (as in, Cessa’s seaslugs are eating the organisms the rest of us are studying..!), and so it made sense that we collaborated closely during this event.

That meant more hands available to do the work, more knowledge to be shared – and definitely more fun! All projects had invited guests, mostly specialists in certain groups, but also citizen scientists, and our students participating. We stayed at the field station, which has excellent facilities for both lodging and lab work.

Participants on our Artsprojects workshop in March. Left from back: Peter Schuchert, Manuel Malaquias, Bjørn Gulliksen, Jon Kongsrud, Tom Alvestad, Gonzalo Giribet. Middle row from left: Heine Jensen, Luis Martell, Endre Willassen, Eivind Oug, Front row from left: Katrine Kongshavn, Cessa Rauch and Jenny Neuhaus (Photo: Heine Jensen)

The fieldwork was carried out in the Bergen region, and was done in various ways. We had the R/V “Hans Brattstrøm” available for two days, where we were able to use triangular dredges, plankton net, and grab to sample.

Other days we used a small boat from the station to go to the islands close to Espegrend to examine the tide pools and tidal belt. We also went to local marinas and scraped off what was living on the piers, and a brave soul donned her wet suit and went snorkeling, which enabled us to sample very specific points of interest (“take that green thing over there!”).

We are fortunate here in Bergen in that we have a very active local student dive club, SUB-BSI, whose divers kindly kept an eye out for – and even collected – some of our target animals, as well as sharing their photos of the animals in their natural habitat, all of which is amazing for our projects!
We gave short presentations of each of the projects at SUB in the beginning of the week, and invited the divers out to the lab to on the following Thursday to show some of the things we are working on. It was a very nice evening, with a lot of interested people coming out to look at our critters in the lab. We also decimated no less than 14 homemade pizzas during that evening – learning new stuff is hard work!

Guests in the lab (photos K. Kongshavn)

All together, this made it possible for us to get material from an impressive number of sites; 20 stations were sampled, and we are now working on processing the samples.

The locations where we samples during the week (map: K. Kongshavn)

We are  very grateful to all our participants and helpers for making this a productive and fun week, and we’ll make more blog posts detailing what each project found – keep an eye out for those!

You can also keep up with us on the following media:

 NorHydro: Hydrozoan Science on Facebook, and Twitter #NorHydro

@Hardbunnsfauna on Instagram and Twitter

SeaSlugs: on Instagram and in the Facebookgroup

 Cessa, Luis & Katrine

Project NorHydro: a quest for hydroids in Norwegian waters

One of this year’s new projects at the Invertebrate collections is NorHydro – Norwegian Marine Benthic Hydrozoa.

Both stages in the typical life cycle of a hydroid (polyp and jellyfish) are represented in the logo of the project

Funded by the Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre (Artsdatabanken), NorHydro will be dedicated to the study of the ubiquitous (but commonly overlooked) marine hydrozoans of Norway.

Some of the most conspicuous Norwegian hydroids are large colonies somewhat resembling branching trees. Many other animals and algae may grow on these colonies making them their home

Hydrozoans are an ecologically and economically important group of animals. With approximately 3800 described species –and probably many more to be discovered– they are the most diverse group of medusozoan cnidarians in terms of number of species and life cycle strategies. Some hydrozoans live all their lives as jellyfish in the water column (thus they are holoplanktonic), but the vast majority of the species either take the form of polyps permanently connected to the sea-floor (benthic) or are meroplanktonic (i.e. possessing both a benthic polyp and pelagic jellyfish stage). Most of the time, the benthic marine hydrozoans (also called hydroids) go unnoticed by the public, but at times they can grow massively on submerged structures, causing problems for aquaculture, fisheries, and navigation, or producing huge numbers of jellyfish that in turn have a great impact on the local marine environment.

Hydroids come in different sizes and shapes. Colonies living on the same substrate (like these members of Cuspidella, Sertularella, and Grammaria) do not necessarily resemble each other.

To get a better overview of which hydroid species are present in Norwegian waters, NorHydro will sample, record, chart, and DNA-barcode specimens occurring all along the Norwegian coasts. The project will rely on specimens deposited in museum collections as well as on constantly obtaining new live animals that will be identified and documented with photos before they are fixed in ethanol for DNA barcoding of CO1 and 16S sequences. Producing information on the morphology (how does it look) and the DNA sequences (the information within) of Norwegian hydroids is very important, because together these data will allow NorHydro to generate useful tools for the future identification of hydroids from all around the world.

Dredges, grabs, sledges, diving and simply taking them by hand are all valid sampling methods when it comes to marine benthic hydroids. The specimens are then sorted, identified, documented with images, processed for DNA barcoding, and finally incorporated to the museum’s collection for future reference.

Understanding hydroid diversity in Norway is not an easy task, but fortunately NorHydro is not alone in this quest: several partners in Norway and abroad will team up with our project, including NorBOL (the Norwegian Barcode of Life), NTNU University Museum, Norwegian Institute of Marine Research, ForBio Research School in Biosystematics, Natural History Museum of Geneva, University of the Balearic Islands, and the Institute of Oceanology of the Polish Academy of Sciences. NorHydro will also benefit from collaborations with the other four currently ongoing NBIC projects at the Invertebrate Collections of the museum (see an overiview of each of these projects here, in Norwegian), which we are sure will result in a lot of exciting discoveries in the near future.

One important goal of NorHydro is to present marine hydroids to all those not familiar with these amazing creatures. In order to do that, we will regularly write entries here on the blog, as well as posting updates in Facebook and in Twitter with the hashtag #NorHydro. The official info webpage for the project is available here in English, and here in Norwegian, so don’t forget to check it out!

-Luis

New year, new field work!

2019 will bring a lot of field work for us at the invertebrate collections – not only do we have our usual activity, but we will also have *FIVE* Norwegian Taxonomy Initiative projects (Artsprosjekt) running!

On a rather windy Tuesday in January, four of us – representing four of these projects – set out with R/V “Hans Brattstrøm”.

Four projects on the hunt for samples! Photo: A.H.S. Tandberg

Our main target for the day was actually not connected to any of the NTI-projects – we were hunting for the helmet jellyfish, Periphylla periphylla. We need fresh specimens that can be preserved in a nice way, so that they can be included in the upcoming new exhibits we are making for our freshly renovated museum. We were also collecting other “charismatic megafauna” that would be suitable for the new exhibits.

We have been getting Periphylla in most of our plankton samples since last summer, so when we decided this was a species we would like to show in our exhibits about the Norwegian Seas, we did not think it would be a big problem to get more.

This is a species that eats other plankton, so normally when we get it, we try to get rid of it as fast as possible; we want to keep the rest of the sample! But we should have known. Don’t ever say out loud you want a specific species – even something very common. Last November, we planned to look specifically for Periphylla, and we brought several extra people along just because of that. But not a single specimen came up in the samples – even when we tried where we “always” get them…

Lurefjorden is famous for being a hotspot for Periphylla – so the odds were in our favor! Map: K. Kongshavn

Wise from Novembers overconfident cruise, this time we planned to call to the lab IF we got anything to preserve. The Plankton-sample did not look too good for Periphylla: we only got a juvenile and some very small babies. So we cast the bottom-trawl out (the smallest and cutest trawl any of us have ever used!), and this sample brought us the jackpot! Several adult Periphylla, and a set of medium-sized ones as well! Back in out preparation-lab an entire size-range of the jelly is getting ready for our museum – be sure to look for it when you come visit us!

We of course wanted to maximize the output of our boat time– so in addition to Periphylla-hunting, we sampled for plankton (also to be used for the upcoming ForBio-course in zooplankton), tested the traps that NorAmph2 will be using to collect amphipods from the superfamily Lysianassoidea, checked the trawl catch carefully for nudibranchs (Sea Slugs of Southern Norway, SSSN) and benthic Hydrozoa (NorHydro), and used a triangular dredge to collect samples from shallow hard-bottom substrate that can be part of either SSSN or the upcoming projects NorHydro (“Norwegian marine benthic Hydrozoa”) or “Invertebrate fauna of marine rocky shallow-water habitats; species mapping and DNA barcoding” (Hardbunnsfauna).

The Hardbunnsfauna project was especially looking for Tunicates that we didn’t already have preserved in ethanol, as we want to start barcoding these once the project begins in earnest (last week of March). We also collected bryozoans, some small calcareous sponges, and (surprise, surprise!) polychaetes.

When it comes to hydrozoans, we were lucky to find several colonies of thecate hydroids from families Campanulariidae and Bougainvilliidae that represent some of the first records for NorHydro. Hydroid colonies growing on red and brown algae were particularly common and will provide a nice baseline against which diversity in other localities will be contrasted.

Different hydroid colonies growing on algae and rocks at the bottom of Lurefjorden. Photo: L. Martell

There were not a lot of sea slugs to be found on this day, but we did get a nice little Cuthona and a Onchidoris.

But what about the Amphipod-traps? Scavengers like Lysianassoidea need some time to realize that there is food around, and then they need to get to it. Our traps have one small opening in one end, but the nice smell of decomposing fish also comes out in the other end of the trap. We therefore normally leave traps out at least 24 hours (or even 48), and at this trip we only had the time to leave them for 7 hours. The collected result was therefore minimal – we even got most of the bait back up. However, knowing that we have a design we can deploy and retrieve from the vessel is very good, and we got to test how the technical details work. It was quite dark when we came to retrieve the traps, so we were very happy to see them! All in all not so bad!

We had a good day at sea, and it will be exciting to see some of our animals displayed in the new exhibits!


If you want to know more about our projects, we are all planning on blogging here as we progress. Additionally you can find more on the

-Anne Helene, Cessa, Luis & Katrine