Category Archives: Norwegian Taxonomy Initiative

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!)

Science Communication – Creating Scientific Illustrations

What on earth is this going to become?

I (Katrine) recently attended a course on how we can use illustrations to (better) communicate our science.

The course was offered as a joint effort of four Norwegian research schools: CHESS, DEEP, ForBio and IBA, and I got my spot through ForBio (Research School in Biosystematics).

The course was taught by Pina Kingman, and covered a lot of different topics in four days, from messy drawing with charcoal to using graphic software for digital illustrations:

  • Principles of design and visual communication
  • How to apply these principles to illustration and graphic design, which in turn will inform all visual material you might want to create, including; graphical abstracts, presentation slides, poster presentations, journal articles, graphs, data visualisation, project logos, animations and outreach material.
  • Best practices for poster and slide presentation design
  • Step by step method on how to draw your own research
  • Introduction to sketching by hand
  • Crash course in digital illustration with mandatory pre-course digital tutorials

Now, we were sternly told on day 1 that we were not allowed to say that we could not draw…but let’s say that some people have more of an affinity for it than I do – see above for proof! None the less, a concept was to be developed, discussed and improved during group work, and ultimately transformed into a digital illustration by the end of day 4.

Most of my fellow students were creating something related to their ongoing research, such as an illustration to be used in a paper of their PhD. On the last day we presented our work for the class, and got the final feedback from the group. Spending a whole day looking at cool graphics and learning about people’s work on such varied topics as water flow in magma, colour patterns on Arctic rays, better diagnosis of tuberculosis, and ecosystem modelling was really enjoyable, and the feedback I got was very helpful.

I opted for an outreach-approach, creating a lot of small illustrations that will be individually useful in future presentations and such, and which could be combined into a small comic about our scientific collections. The comic has been shared on Twitter and Instagram (do follow @hardbunnsfauna!), and now here:

The end product of the course; a short introduction to our scientific collections, how we work, and how we integrate data such as DNA-barcodes and morphological traits of the animals to do our research!

Thank you to Pina, Mandy (& the other arrangers), and the class for a wonderful learning environment and a fun couple of days!

-Katrine

NorHydro in South Africa: the 6th International Jellyfish Blooms Symposium

The 6th International Jellyfish Blooms Symposium was the last big academic event in 2019 attended by team NorHydro, and we were very happy to have presented our project in such a relevant meeting!

Team NorHydro at the 6th Jellyfish Blooms Symposium, from left to right: Maciej Mańko (University of Gdansk – Poland), Aino Hosia (UiB – UMB), Joan J. Soto (UiB – Sars Center), and Luis Martell (UiB – UMB).

In many ways, the Jellyfish Bloom Symposium (JBS) is the most important meeting of scientists working with medusozoans in the world. Professionals from different countries, backgrounds and lines of research meet every 3 years in this symposium to present their results, discuss new findings, and chat with colleagues about the state of knowledge in the group. So of course our Artsdatabanken project NorHydro had to be present, especially after a session focused on polyps was announced for this particular edition. The importance of polyp stages – the object of study of NorHydro – is now widely recognized in jellyfish biology, and understanding the ecology and diversity of polyps has become a key point in the study of jellyfish blooms.

This time, it was the turn of the University of the Western Cape, Iziko South African Museum and the Two Oceans Aquarium to host the JBS, which was held in Africa for the first time.

Iziko Museum was the venue for the oral presentations and poster sessions. The way to the auditorium was marked by jellyfish but we still had to pass under the vigilant eyes of a giraffe.

The city of Cape Town provided a beautiful setting for discussions on gelatinous matters and sharing of jellyfish-related stories, and we even got to see some of the local hydrozoans from the surroundings, both in the aquarium and in the sea.

Not everyone was happy with the high concentration of jellyfish researchers in Table Mountain. Photo: Joan J. Soto Àngel

We were lucky to see some hydrozoans by the sea. Several specimens of the siphonophore Physalia physalis (top left) and the anthoathecate Velella velella (top right) were stranded in Diaz Beach, near the Cape of Good Hope (bottom).

The oral presentations and poster sessions covered many subjects on jellyfish biology, not only the dynamics of polyps but also the relationship between jellyfish and humans, the role of jellyfish in the ecosystem, and the diversity of medusa, ctenophores and salps.

Overall, the participation of NorHydro in the JBS was very succesful. We received positive feedback about the results presented, and people were very interested in our upcoming activities, particularly the course on hydrozoan biology and diversity (read more and apply here).

All the participants of the 6th Jellyfish Blooms Symposium

NorHydro was so warmly welcomed that we are already looking forward to sharing more about the hydrozoans of Norway in the next JBS in 2022!

– Luis

Keep up with NorHydro in Facebook and in Twitter with hashtag #NorHydro.

Research Internship – Francesco

In the last part of 2019 Francesco Golin collaborated with us as an intern in project NorHydro. Francesco is a student at the University of Algarve, where he is enrolled in the International Master of Science in Marine Biological Resources (IMBRSea). We asked him about his internship and this is what he told us:

During the 2019 autumn semester I joined Luis Martell and Aino Hosia in project NorHydro as a research intern. My research contribution was aimed at finding how many species of the hydrozoan genus Euphysa are present in Norwegian waters, and how to define them morphologically and genetically. Euphysa is a common genus with 22 accepted species, but many of them are not easy to tell apart from each other, which is why we decided to implement an integrative approach for species delimitation including morphological and molecular analyses.

Some of the species of Euphysa occurring in Norway. From left to right: Euphysa aurata, Euphysa flammea, and Euphysa sp

Working on board during the cruise

My first mission as an intern was collecting some samples of Euphysa and other gelatinous organisms. Luckily, the opportunity to do so presented itself during the student cruise associated to BIO325, a course in which I participated as part of my studies at UiB.

During this cruise I used a light table to spot the tiny jellyfishes brought on board by the Multinet, then I placed them on a Petri dish and took pictures of them with a camera attached to a stereomicroscope, before transferring them to an Eppendorf tube filled with ethanol.

All these elements (the pictures of each organism, the associated sampling data, and the samples themselves) are needed for species delimitation of hydromedusae. The pictures are used to compare the morphology of different individuals and to identify important diagnostic characters (unfortunately, ethanol-fixed jellyfish are not useful for morphological analysis), while the ethanol-preserved samples are used to obtain DNA sequences.

The light table used to spot the gelatinous zooplankton

Some siphonophore parts are very transparent, and thus they are some of the most difficult animals to spot in plankton samples.

The hydrozoan Aglantha digitale (left) was very abundant in all my samples. Other cnidarians, such as this anthozoan larva (right) were also present.

My second mission consisted on gathering the original descriptions of the different species of Euphysa. This information is necessary if we want to understand what makes each species different, and will come handy when analyzing the individuals and their pictures collected on the field. Talking about species boundaries, I had the opportunity to attend a course on “Molecular Species Delimitation” offered by the University Museum. In this course I learned how to perform the analysis of DNA sequences for species delimitation, using some common software (MEGA and R) for this purpose. These are important tools that will allow us to assess the diversity of Euphysa in Norway, and together with the morphological analyses these data will help us determine if new species have to be described.

Now the semester has ended and my internship is over. Nevertheless, I hope my help was meaningful, as I want to continue being a part of this research project in the future. I will keep myself updated with the changes in the taxonomy of Euphysa, so I’m sure I will be able to join NorHydro again when I’ll come back to Bergen!

-Francesco

Field season’s end

Sletvik field station, October 15th-23rd 2019

We wanted to make a write-up of the last combined fieldwork/workshop we had in 2019, which was a trip to the marine field station of NTNU, Sletvik in Trøndelag, in late October. From Bergen, Luis (NorHydro), Jon, Tom, and Katrine (Hardbunnsfauna) stuffed a car full of material, microscopes, and drove the ~12 hours up to the field station that we last visited in 2016.Beautiful fall in Trøndelag

There we joined up with Torkild, Aina, Karstein, and Tuva from NTNU university museum, students August and Marte, and Eivind from NIVA. We also had some visitors; Hauk and Stine from Artsdatabanken came by to visit (if you read Norwegian, there’s a feature about it here), and Per Gätzschmann from NTNU UM dropped by for a day to photograph people in the field.

Most of the workshop participants lined up Photo: Hauk Liebe, Artsdatabanken

During a productive week the plan was to work through as much as possible of the material that we and our collaborators had collected from Kristiansand in the South to Svalbard in the North. Some of us went out every day to collect fresh material in the field close to the station.The Artsprosjekts #Sneglebuss, Hardbunnsfauna, NorHydro, and PolyPort gathered at Sletvik, and with that also the University museums of Trondheim and Bergen. Of course we were also collecting for the other projects, and the museum collections.

One of the things Hardbunnsfauna wanted to do whilst in Sletvik was to pick out interesting specimens to submit for DNA barcoding. This means that the animals need to be sorted from the sediment, the specimens identified, and the ones destined to become barcode vouchers must be photographed and tissue sampled, and the data uploaded to the BOLD database. We managed to complete three plates of gastropods, select specimens for one with bivalves, and begin on a plate of echinoderms, as well as sort through and select quite a few crustaceans and ascidians for further study.

Collecting some fresh material was particularly important for NorHydro because the hydroids from the coasts of Trøndelag have not been thoroughly studied in recent years, and therefore we expected some interesting findings in the six sites we managed to sample. We selected over 40 hydrozoan specimens for DNA barcoding, including some common and widespread hydroids (e.g. Dynamena pumila), some locally abundant species (e.g. Sarsia lovenii) and exceptionally rare taxa, such as the northernmost record ever for a crawling medusa (Eleutheria dichotoma). We also used a small plankton net to catch some of the local hydromedusae, and found many baby jellyfish belonging to genus Clytia swimming around the field station.

Plan B when the animals (in this case Leuckartiara octona) won’t cooperate and be documented with the fancy camera; bring out the cell phones!

It was a busy week, but combining several projects, bringing together material spanning all of Norway, and working together like this made it extremely productive!

Thank you  very much to all the participants, and to all the people who have helped us gather material so far!

-Katrine & Luis

Sea slugs from Vestfold

Larvik & Sandefjord 22.10.2019 – 27.10.2019

From October 22 to October 27, Sea slugs of Southern Norway crossed the Hardangervidda mountain pass to pay a visit to Larvik Dykkeklubb (LDK) and Sandefjord Dykkeklubb (SDK). Vestfold, in particularly the Larvik area, was a thorn in the side for the sea slug project. With fieldwork and collection trips covering most of the Hordaland area (Bergen, Espegrend), Rogaland (Egersund), Mandal (Vest-Augder), Drøbak (Oslofjord area) a lot was left to be discovered still for Aust-Agder and Vestfold. Therefore, a visit to Vestfold was very high on our bucket list.

With Winter just around the corner, we decided to squeeze in a short fieldwork trip to Larvik just before the end of 2019. Me and Anders Schouw drived from Bergen to Larvik with our rented caddy to meet up with Tine Kinn Kvamme and members of the LDK. On Tuesday morning, after packing our mobile laboratory in the car, we drove off to Larvik. In the early evening we arrived at the LDK, there we were welcomed by Lene Borgersen from LDK, who facilitated access to the clubhouse for sorting sea slugs during our stay. That evening was also a club members evening, and I took that opportunity to give a presentation about sea slugs and the Sea slugs of Southern Norway project

It was a great evening talking about sea slugs with interested club members while eating pizza! The next day Tine, Anders and I met up with LDK member Mikkel Melsom, who joined to help on our hunting for sea slugs

Picture 2. Some sea slugs from Larvik; from left to right; Limacia clavigera, Edmundsella pedata, Diaphorodoris luteocincta, Tritonia hombergii, Tritonia lineata and Cadlina laevis. Photo credits Anders Schouw

Later that day we met up at the SDK clubhouse with Stein Johan Fongen, where I had the opportunity to once again talk about sea slugs this time to the SDK members. This was a very special evening because among the audience, besides SDK members, we also had students from Sandefjord videregående skole (Sandefjord High School)

Sea slug presentation for students of the Sandefjord videregående skole and Sandefjord Dykkeklubb members. Photo credits Tine Kinn Kvamme

In the following days several members of the SDK also joint us collecting sea slugs. Despite the fact that October is known for being not an ideal season to find sea slugs (most species are observed during Winter and (early) Spring) we still somehow ended up with hours of sorting work at the Larvik clubhouse

Cessa Rauch & Anders Schouw sorting sea slugs in the Larvik clubhouse. Photo credits Tine Kinn Kvamme

Overall, we collected 21 different species, all newly registered specimens for the project with regard to this part of the country. It would be great to see what the species abundance would be during a sea slug season like February or March!

Overview of the species collected at Larvik and the Sandefjord area

Besides sea slugs and enthusiastic club members, another highlight of the week was a visiting seal at SDK! On our last day of fieldwork, a young seal was very bold and decided to rest close to the clubhouse in the harbor. It let people come up really close, which was great for making cute seal pictures. Cherry on the cake, in my opinion!

Young seal in the harbor close to the Sandejord Dykkeklubb. Photo credits Anders Schouw

On Sunday the tree of us had to say goodbye, Tine would go back to her hometown Oslo and Anders and I would cross the snowy mountains again back to Bergen. It was a short but sweet visit and great opportunity to meet members of Larvik and Sandefjord dykkerklubbs. I therefore want to thank LDK and SDK for their interest, enthusiasm and help for the few days Anders, Tine and I were around. I surely hope we will meet again next year, and find many more sea slugs. And of course, thanks to Anders and Tine for helping again, hope we can share many more sea slug adventures together

Left to right; Tine Kinn Kvamme, Cessa Rauch and Anders Schouw in front of the Larvik Dykkeklubb were most of the ‘lab’ work was done. Photo credits Lene Borgersen

More sea slugs: 

Do you want to see more beautiful pictures of sea slugs of Norway? Check out the Sea slugs of Southern Norway Instagram account; and don’t forget to follow us. Become a member of the Sea Slugs of Southern Norway Facebook group, stay updated and join the discussion! Hunger for more sea slug adventures, check our latest blog posts.

Explore the world, read the invertebrate blogs!

– Cessa

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

Success in the South; fieldwork in Mandal

From May 20th to 27th the sea slugs of Southern Norway team headed South to Mandal to pay a visit to the Mandal dykkerklubb and try to find more enthusiastic citizen scientist to join the sea slug project. We had a few special guests invited for the week and the team consisted of Cessa Rauch, Manuel Malaquias, Anders Schouw, Erling Svensen, Nils Aukan, Tine Kvamme and Heine Jensen. In Mandal the head of the club Erling Tønnessen would be there to help us around and organize club activities for collecting the sea slugs.

The first day basically consisted of traveling to Mandal and setting up our “hyttes” for a week of sea slug hunting. As usual we underestimated the amount of space needed to bring our ‘mobile’ lab to the camping site in Mandal. Even though a station wagon theoretically fit a family of five plus luggage, it was barely enough space for a family of sea slug hunters with their equipment.

Picture 1. We accomplished to fit everything in this rental car, picture Cessa Rauch

We ended up with a challenging Tetris game and me being squeezed between microscopes and jars in the back seat, still, no complaints! At least I was spared for driving the long hours from Bergen all the way to Mandal, that every local would be able to fix in less than 7 hours, we managed to take 12. I guess the car was heavy loaded! Manuel did a fantastic job while Anders and me where dozing off. Eventually we managed to arrive safely in Mandal and there we were greeted by our team of citizen scientists that helped us out through the week. They as well had to travel from all corners of the country; Kristiansund, Egersund, Oslo and Sarpsborg. It was quite special to arrive all together in Mandal with only one thing in our minds; finding sea slugs!

The next days in collaboration with the local Mandal dykkerklub and their fantastic club boat equipped with a lift to get people in and out of the water, we operated most of the sampling activities. After a day out collecting we would all go back to our cabins and start photographing and registering the samples.

Even though late spring is supposedly not the best season for collecting sea slugs, due to low abundance of the different species, together we were still able to collect 47 different species!

Picture 4. Overview of the species collected during fieldwork in Mandal

On our last day of the expedition, the Mandal dykkerklubb organized an evening social gathering for their members in which we had the chance to give a presentation about sea slugs and the project, and to give away a few sea slug sampling kits to all those interested.

Picture 5. Cessa and Manuel presenting the sea slugs of Southern Norway project, picture Erling Svensen

Picture 6. Interested dive members of the Mandal dykkerklubb showing up to learn more about sea slugs and having a good time, picture Erling Svensen

With every fieldwork trip we get more experienced in the organization and execution of the event and this is definitely paying off in the diversity of species we manage to collect. We were not able to register so many species before as with this fieldwork trip to Mandal. This was by far the most successful expedition and together with the joined efforts off all the excellent citizen scientist we formed a real professional sea slug team!

Picture 7. Group picture of the expedition members on board of the Mandal dykkerklubb boat, left to right; Heine Jensen, Erling Svensen, Anders Schouw, Cessa Rauch, Tine kinn kvamme, Nils Aukan and the expedition leader Manuel Malaquias in front, picture Erling Svensen

At the moment we are waiting for the first DNA barcode results in order to confirm the species diversity we found that week. An update will follow; but Manuel and I would like to take this opportunity to gratefully acknowledge all the efforts and interest of our team members of that week and the good times we had together! Hope to meet you all again soon during yet another sea slug hunt! Tusen takk!

-Cessa

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.