Category Archives: Photography

SeaSlug Fieldwork during the Haugesund Dive Camp

Haugesund 3rd till 10th of July 2018. 
by Cessa Rauch

The Sea slugs of Southern Norway project is going strong with already the second fieldwork trip checked off from our to-do list. Sea slugs of Southern Norway is a two-year project funded by Artsdatabanken aiming to map the diversity of sea slugs along the Southern part of the Norwegian coast. From around Bergen, Hordaland to the Swedish border, as this particular area of Norway has a huge gap of about 80 years without any dedicated work on sea slugs diversity being carried out. In May the project had its official kick off with a successful expedition to Drøbak, a little village near Oslo in the Oslofjord, where we were able to collect around 43 species, and met up with our dedicated collaborators from that area.

A selection of the species collected during the Drøbak expedition in May 2018. From left to right; top: Jorunna tomentosa, Doto dunnei, Facelina bostoniensis, middle: Doto coronata, Fjordia lineata, Limacia clavigera, bottom: Caronella pellucida, Microchlamylla gracilis, Rostanga rubra, photo credits: Anders Schouw

From the beginning we have made an effort to engage divers and underwater photographers passionate about sea slugs and establish a network of Citizen Scientists, and the response was extremely positive. Citizen scientists are volunteers that help out scientists by providing them with data as a hobby in their spare time. Their many years of experience result often in the accumulation of an immensely valuable knowledge about the taxonomy and ecology of these animals, which they eagerly share with us. We shall say, that the success of our project heavily rely on their input and willingness to help collecting samples, particularly because of the restrictions with scientific diving in Norway that we researchers face, that basically hamper any possibility to use this method for collecting slugs during our working time.

Dive camp Haugesund 2018

So far, we have citizen scientists helping us collecting sea slugs in the Oslofjord area, Egersund, Bergen, and Kristiansund. As you can see we miss a lot of coastline here still. Therefore, we decided to participate in the dive camp in Haugesund this year to see if we could get in touch with more enthusiastic hobby divers.

The dive camp was organized by the Slettaa Dykkerklubb Haugaland. Started in 2015, they are a relatively young club, but they grew very fast and have currently around 200 members. They are well known for the many activities they organize throughout the year that are often open to anyone who likes to participate.

Dive camp Haugesund pamphlet and picture

The timetable for the week (click to enlarge)

This year they decided to organize an actual dive camp that took a week and offered two dives a day, camping spot, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and every day an interesting talk or tour related to diving. It was from 4th of July until the 10th and every day between the dives the participants had interesting meet-ups with marine biologists (like Vivian Husa), underwater photographers (Siv Pedersen and Vidar Skålevik from WEDIVE.no), and underwater artist Jason deCaires Taylor. We also visited the company Kystdesign, and we got a safety lecture form Tor Oppegård.

One of the remote-controlled submarines that were presented during the tour

A very busy and informative week! It was a great success for the participants and organizers and there will be a similar event again next year.

There and back again

Microscope in the living room

The day before the camp started, I met with citizen scientist Anders Schouw, and we drove that evening from Bergen to Haugesund to check into our rented Airbnb flat.

Although the Dive Camp had arranged a camping ground for visitors, we decided to stick with renting a flat, in order to have our equipment properly installed. Once arrived, we had to add some adjustments to the apartment. The dining area was converted to a sea slug studio with trays and camera equipment installed. The living room was now our little laboratory with a microscope and laptops.

The dining area converted into our mobile sea slug studio and picture

I can reassure you that we left everything clean and tidy!

The review of the owner, after I left our converted laboratory for an actual apartment

The next day we met very early in the morning at the seashore to be picked up by one of the organizers of the dive camp.

Pick up by speedboat in order to cross the water

The actual event took place on a tiny island just a short boat ride away from the city center of Haugesund. From there we took the boat Risøygutt from Thomas Bergh that we used in order to commute from the island to all the beautiful diving spots surrounding Haugesund. The first day we met up with Klaus and Are Risnes (father and son) as one of the participants of the camp that day.

During the week, and especially during the weekend, the number of participants increased and at a given time we had to go out with two boats in order to bring the more than 20 divers to the dive spots. Anders would be diving with Thomas while Karl Oddvar Floen and Torbjørn Brekke were leading the dive.

Originally built as a shrimp boat, Risøygutt has converted to a diving boat years ago, and the current owner Thomas Bergh, continued to use it for diving activities

My main purpose during the dive camp was providing everyone with collecting jars, that they took with them every dive, in search of sea slugs.

Klaus Risnes after a dive within his collecting jar with the sea hare Aplysia punctata, notice the purple colored water, ink from the sea hare they produce when they are disturbed

The cool box with sea slug samples on Risøygutt, accompanied with Anders’ photography gear

Because we needed the species alive for photography and species identification, I brought a cool-box with ice with me on the boat were the jars with sea slugs were kept, in order to keep them cool.

I was running around on the boat  providing collecting jars to the divers during the whole week, but as the number of participants during the week increased, the collecting jars were running out.

Halfway, Anders and I decided to visit the local supply store and purchased a bunch of extra collecting jars for all the enthusiastic participants willing to catch some sea slugs for us

Collecting jars full with different species of sea slugs

Different sea slug species in a collecting jar (accompanied with three flatworms)

Every day after the two dives, Anders and I returned to our “Airbnb-lab” and started working on the sea slugs, that meant sometimes short nights, and as you guessed it, the more species, the less sleep

Working on collected specimen far past bedtime

The species collected were luckily all photogenic and we were very happy with the results!

Anne Mari With Ottesen helping out with sea slug sorting

 Luckily we got many enthusiasts helping out and one evening Anne Mari With Ottesen joined us on the identification of the sea slugs.

Halfway in the dive camp week I gave a lecture about sea slugs in general and about the Sea slugs in Southern Norway project. It helped divers to spot sea slugs easier as they become better informed about what and where to look for.

This helped tremendously as we continued to get different species of sea slugs after every dive. At the end of the week, the count was on 22 species!

Catch of the week, as it is our most rare species so far in our Artsdatabanken database, Aegires punctilucens, photo credits Anders Schouw

Photogenic Edmundsella pedata, photo credits Anders Schouw

Besides the good weather, the delicious seafood and many new friendships made, with the number of new slug species added to our list and the many new citizen scientists volunteering for our project now, I could say that the dive camp was a success. We will continue to collaborate with Slettaa Dykkerklubb and hopefully in the future will host a sea slug course for its members and participate with the dive camp again next year, I can’t wait. Tusen takk!

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Anders Schouw for all his effort in helping out during this week and I especially would like to thank him for his stamina during long days and short nights sorting the sea slugs!

We also would like to thank the organizers of the dive camp and Slettaa Dykkerklubb members; Åge Wee, Lars Einar Hollund, Thomas Bergh, Elisabeth Bergh, Torbjørn Brekke, Karl Oddvar Floen, Anne Mari With Ottesen and the numerous other enthusiastic participants that helped us out during the week! And a warm welcome to our new clan of citizen scientists!

Interested in our Sea slugs of Southern Norway project? Become a member of our Facebook group and get regular updates.

 

Further reading

Are you interested in the Slettaa Dykkerklub Haugaland? Visit their Facebook group or their website for more information.

Want to know more about underwater photography? Check the personal underwater photography blog on Facebook or visit this website for tips and tricks.

Always wanted to know more about Jason deCaires Taylors’ underwater art? Visit his website. Did you know that Jason has also underwater art installed in Oslo? Check this out;

Explore the world, read the invertebrate blogs!

Keeping an eye open for mud jellies

Working on a team makes for the best discoveries in science, and we at the HYPNO and NorAmph artsprojects know it well, especially after we stumbled upon a large number of the elusive mud jellyfish Tesserogastria musculosa in one of our joint sampling trips to Raunefjord (you can read Christine’s account of our sampling here, in Norwegian).

Live specimens of mud jellyfish (Tesserogastria musculosa) collected in Raunefjord. Foto: L Martell

We were able to compare our specimens with the holotype (i.e. the original specimen upon which the description of the species was made, pictured above), thanks to a loan from the Natural History Museum of the University of Oslo. Collaboration between museums make science happen! Foto: L Martell

Mud jellyfish can be very abundant, but they are also easily overlooked, and only a gentle way of collecting animals will reveal its presence on a benthic sample. These hard-to-catch benthic jellyfish are so fragile that many previous surveys of the bottom of the fjords may have missed them because the jellies were simply too damaged to be identified at any level, but thanks to the careful processing of the samples and an expert eye we were able to obtain living specimens in good shape. This finding led to the evaluation of all the records of the species in the world, obtaining the first genetic data (including the DNA-barcode) for the species and genus, and finally to a redescription and a joint publication (available here: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s10152-018-0515-5).

Getting the sample and carefully separating the animals. Fotos: AHS Tandberg (left), L Martell (right)

Searching for (and finding!) many jellyfish. Fotos: AHS Tandberg

Mud jellyfish are the only species in genus Tesserogastria, which takes its name from the square-shaped stomach of the animals (Tesserogastria comes from ancient Greek τέσσαρες “four, square” and Latin gaster “stomach”). The specific name musculosa (Latin for “muscular”) was given to them because they look quite sturdy, with extremely well developed muscles around the opening of the “bell”. They are not the typical free-swimming and pulsating jellyfish, as they prefer to live in muddy bottoms, where they use their tentacles to walk around (they really don’t like to swim) until finding a place to sit and wait for dinner (which is usually some small crustacean). We still don’t know many things about this species because mud jellyfish are tiny and live on the bottom of the sea far away from the surface, but now that a new population has been discovered in Western Norway we will have the opportunity to investigate more on its behavior and body structure, perhaps answering some questions such as why do these jellies need very strong bell muscles if they don’t swim very often, or how the species is related to the other crawling jellyfish species from the North Atlantic.

-Luis

Happy #PolychaeteDay!

Once again, it is time to celebrate our segmented friends from the sea – the Polychaetes, or bristle worms!

The tradition began in 2015 as a way to commemorate Kristian Fauchald, a key figure in the polychaetologist community for many years – as as a way for us to show off the cool critters that we work with!

We here at the Invertebrate collections have been celebrating in blog form each year, you can find the previous posts here:

2015: The 1st International Polychaete Day! 

2016: Happy International Polychaete Day! 

2017: Happy Polychaete Day! 

For the 2015 celebration we were lucky enough to receive some stunning images from polychaete photographers extraordinaire Fredrik Pleijel and Arne Nygren (as well as some of mine), I think those deserve another round in the spotlight:

 

As readers of this blog may be aware of, polychaetes are mainly marine, and live from the intertidal down to the abyssal zone. There’s more than 12 000 species of them world wide, and they can be active swimmers or live in burrows, be hunters, scavengers, carnivores or herbivores, filter feeders, or parasites. The group display a wide varity of body shapes, life modes and colours. Many are quite beautiful!

Phyllodoce citrina, Photo by Arne Nygren CC-BY-SA

This year we would like to highlight some of the science that employees here have contributed to, and share some glimpses of what we work on. People sometimes wonder if we “ever find new species?” and the answer to that is an unequivocal “YES”. It really is not entirely uncommon to come across undescribed species (especially of the minute variety) – the challenge often lies more in finding the time to formally describe them. We have a couple of species in the pipeline at the moment, such as this Orbiniella sp. n. from the Bergen region that we hope to finish describing quite soon

New to science!

Who works with polychaetes? On the recent International Polychaete Conferences (blog posts from2013 and 2016, web page for the upcoming in 2019) there was around 150 attendees.

The “polychaetologists”, or polychaete researchers, are a collaborative bunch, and most of our work involves co-authors from other institutions, and often also from several countries. We share material, go on and receive research visits, arrange workshops and field work, and co-author. Pictured here are some of the recent new species that have been described by people from the invertebrate collections (with co-authors, of course!):


To better our understanding of the diversity of the group, we use a combination of traditional morphology based identifications, and genetic methods.

The recent paper by Arne Nygren et al. (2018) A mega-cryptic species complex hidden among one of the most common annelids in the North East Atlantic, published in PLOS ONE 13(6) e0198356. and available through open access here:  https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0198356  is a striking example of how much higher the diversity might be. The paper examines the cryptic species diversity of the genus Terebellides in the North-East Atlantic, and reveals a stunning genetic diversity:

Many of the new species are common and wide spread, and the majority of the species are found in sympatry with several other species in the complex. Being one of the most regularly encountered annelid taxa in the North East Atlantic, it is more likely to find an undescribed species of Terebellides than a described one

This fits well with what we have observed though our work on polychaete diversity in the Nordic seas through several Norwegian Taxonomy Initiative Projects (“Artsprosjekt”), and studies of the museum material. We presented a summary of our findings for some polychaete families at the IBOL conference in South Africa. We find that there is a clear need for thorough vetting of reference databases of genetic barcodes so that the barcodes can be validated to named species – and to do that, we first need to figure out who is who! This requires in-depth knowledge of the history, practice, and current state of the taxonomy obtained with traditional methods. We find that the polychaete diversity in Nordic waters is at least 30% higher than presently known, even though this is among the best studied marine areas of the world. 

All the posters can be found on the conference web site, ours is #825.

In other words, there is much left to explore!

To continue the Polychaete Day celebrations, head on over to Twitter and #PolychaeteDay!


Polychaete papers involving authors from the Invertebrate Collections:

Alvestad, T & Budaeva, N (2015) Neosabellides lizae, a new species of Ampharetidae (Annelida) from Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia.  Zootaxa 4019 (1): 061–069

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

Arias A., Paxton H., Budaeva N. 2016. Redescription and biology of Diopatra neapolitana (Annelida: Onuphidae), a protandric hermaphrodite with external spermaducal papillae. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 175: 1–17. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecss.2016.03.002

Budaeva, N. (2014) Nothria nikitai, a new species of bristle worms (Annelida, Onuphidae) from the Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean. Marine Biodiversity 2014, DOI:10.1007/s12526-014-0244-1

Budaeva, N., Jirkov, I., Savilova, T., Paterson, G. (2014) Deep-sea fauna of European seas: An annotated species check-list of benthic invertebrates living deeper than 2000 m in the seas bordering Europe. Polychaeta. Invertebrate Zoology 2014 ;Volum 11.(1) s. 217-230

Budaeva, N., Pyataeva, S., Meissner, K. (2014) Development of the deep-sea viviparous quill worm Leptoecia vivipara (Hyalinoeciinae, Onuphidae, Annelida). Invertebrate biology. 2014; Volume 133.(3) s. 242-260

Phylogenetic tree of a bristle worm family Onuphidae (Budaeva et al., 2016)

Budaeva N., Schepetov D.,Zanol J., Neretina T., Willassen E. (2016) When molecules support morphology: Phylogenetic reconstruction of the family Onuphidae (Eunicida, Annelida) based on 16S rDNA and 18S rDNA. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 94(B): 791–801.   http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ympev.2015.10.011 

Eilertsen, M., Georgieva, M., Kongsrud, J.A, Linse, K., Wiklund, H.G., Glover, A., Rapp, H.T. (2018). Genetic connectivity from the Arctic to the Antarctic: Sclerolinum contortum and Nicomache lokii (Annelida) are both widespread in reducing environments. Scientific Reports 8:4810 | DOI:10.1038/s41598-018-23076-0

Eilertsen, M., Kongsrud, J.A, Alvestad, T., Stiller, J., Rouse, G., & Rapp, H.T (2017). Do ampharetids take sedimented steps between vents and seeps? Phylogeny and habitat-use of Ampharetidae (Annelida, Terebelliformia) in chemosynthesis-based ecosystems. BMC Evolutionary Biology. 17. 222. Doi: 10.1186/s12862-017-1065-1.

Kongsrud J.A., Eilertsen M.H., Alvestad T., Kongshavn K., Rapp HT. (2017) New species of Ampharetidae (Annelida: Polychaeta) from the Arctic Loki Castle vent field. Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography. 137: 232-245. doi: 10.1016/j.dsr2.2016.08.015

Kongsrud, J.A., Budaeva, N., Barnich, R., Oug, E., Bakken, T. (2013) Benthic polychaetes from the northern Mid-Atlantic Ridge between the Azores and the Reykjanes Ridge, Marine Biology Research, 9:5-6, 516-546, DOI: 10.1080/17451000.2012.749997

Oug, E., Bakken, T. & Kongsrud, J.A. (2014) Original specimens and type localities of early described polychaete species (Annelida) from Norway, with particular attention to species described by O.F. Müller and M. Sars. Memoirs of Museum Victoria 71, 217-236 http://doi.org/10.24199/j.mmv.2014.71.17 

Oug, E., Bakken, T., Kongsrud, J.A., Alvestad, T. (2016) Polychaetous annelids in the deep Nordic Seas: Strong bathymetric gradients, low diversity and underdeveloped taxonomy. Deep-sea research. Part II, Topical studies in oceanography. 137: 102-112. Publisert 2016-07-06. doi: 10.1016/j.dsr2.2016.06.016

Parapar, J., Kongsrud, J.A., Kongshavn, K., Alvestad, T., Aneiros, F., Moreira, J. (2017). A new species of Ampharete (Annelida: Ampharetidae) from the NW Iberian Peninsula, with a synoptic table comparing NE Atlantic species of the genus. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, zlx077,https://doi.org/10.1093/zoolinnean/zlx077

Queiros JP, Ravara A, Eilertsen MH, Kongsrud JA, Hilário A. (2017). Paramytha ossicola sp. nov. (Polychaeta, Ampharetidae) from mammal bones: reproductive biology and population structure. Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography. 137: 349-358. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dsr2.2016.08.017

Vedenin A., Budaeva N., Mokievsky V., Pantke C., Soltwedel T., Gebruk A. (2016) Spatial distribution patterns in macrobenthos along a latitudinal transect at the deep-sea observatory HAUSGARTEN. Deep-Sea Research Part I 114: 90–98. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.dsr.2016.04.015

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

-Katrine

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

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

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

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

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

Jorunna rubescens

Phyllidia varicosa

Plakobranchus sp.

Reticulidia suzanneae

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

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

João Macuio and Manuel Malaquias during a nudi photo session

Local fishermen in a wooden canoe

Measuring giant clams underwater

Yara Tibiriçá databasing the catch of the day

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

Monkey jumping on the roof of our accommodation

A “family” of moray eels

Collecting in the mangroves

Crown-of-thorns starfish feeding on coral

Detail of a gorgonian coral

Garden eels

Nangata Bay, Nuarro

The flatworm Pseudoceros lindae

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

Primary school build by the lodge at Nangata village

Real Nangata football club

View of Nangata village with a baubau tree

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

Manuel António E. Malaquias, Associate Professor

Natural History Museum of Bergen, Norway

 

Bryozoan barcoding

Haeckel Bryozoa.jpg
By Ernst Haeckel – Kunstformen der Natur (1904), plate 23: Bryozoa (see here, here and here), Public Domain, Link You can also find the whole, gorgeous book by Haeckel here, courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library

I have spent the past week and a half getting acquainted with a rather odd – yet beautiful – group of animals, the Bryozoa, moss animals. These colony-forming, mostly marine, animals are small as individuals, but the colonies can grow quite large. Globally there are around 5000 extant species recorded, with a further 15 000 species in the fossil record. We have colleagues in Oslo who work on both the fossil and the current fauna to better understand micro- and macroevolution, you can read more about that here (og her, på norsk).

Sampling site of barcoded Bryozoans in the BOLD database

Sampling site of barcoded Bryozoans in the BOLD database

This is the first attempt at barcoding bryozoans through NorBOL, and it shows (map above); hopefully we will get more dots on the map for our region soon!

This may not be an easy group to get genetic barcodes from, though – I’ve been in communication with several of the (wonderfully helpful!) experts in the field, and the consensus seems to be that getting a barcode (from the region defined as THE barcode, the 5’ end of COI) will be difficult, and that we may anticipate “..a colourful array of contaminants, as well as nuclear mitochondrial pseudogenes”. Yay. Well, we won’t know until we try!

Together with colleagues from the Natural History Collections in Gothenburg we have assembled a plate of tissue samples from Swedish and Norwegian bryozoan that I will send to the CCDB facilities for sequencing next week. We have an impressive 58 different species (1-3 specimens of each) included on the plate, as well as a few specimens that are (not yet) identified to species.

n344_w1150

Bicellariella ciliata for barcoding

Bicellariella ciliata for barcoding

The colonies can be branching, encrusting, lacelike, lumpy…and at times pretty close to invisible! I’ve had to spend some time looking for good illustrations to know what to sample from… there are often multiple species in a jar, as well as other animals – hopefully I managed.

The specimens on the plate

The specimens on the plate

We’re treating this as a trial plate: is it possible to barcode museum material of bryozoans through the general pipeline, or will we need to get creative?

I’ll make a new post once the verdict is in – let’s hope for surprisingly high success rates!


Some further reading:

Lee et al 2011: DNA Barcode Examination of Bryozoa (Class: Gymnolaemata) in Korean SeawaterKorean J. Syst. Zool. Vol. 27, No. 2: 159-163, July 2011 ISSN 2233-7687
DOI 10.5635/KJSZ.2011.27.2.159

Wikipedia has a nice post on Bryozoa

 

Guest Researcher: Joan

Dr Joan Soto from the University of Valencia (Spain), visited us at the museum during August/September 2017 to collaborate with HYPNO on the mysterious issue of linking hydroids and their medusae. We asked him about his experience, and got the following:

Joan, ready to go jelly-hunting under the blue sky!

Joan, ready to go jelly-hunting under the blue sky!

Imagine a caterpillar and its butterfly described as different species by the scientific community. Now think on how confusing it would be if everybody kept calling them with different names over centuries. Well, this is the case of many hydroids and their corresponding medusae!

Hydrozoans, together with other well-known animals such as corals, anemones and jellyfishes, are included within the Phylum Cnidaria. Most hydrozoans are metagenetic, which means that they alternate between asexual (the polyp, usually benthic) and sexual (medusae, usually pelagic) stages in their life. Since the early works by Linnaeus in the mid-18th century, the very first scientists who showed interest in hydrozoans specialized primarily in a single stage of their life cycle, often neglecting the other, and even those courageous scientists who accepted the challenge of studying both groups were unable to discover the correspondence between such different animals as the polyp and the medusa.

Nowadays, in the era of molecular tools, new techniques are revealing that things are not what they seem, neither do they look like what they really are. Thanks to project HYPNO, several links between polyps and medusae have been found, with the subsequent adjustment in their ID (a.k.a. their scientific name), but that is not all! New evidences are bringing to light that some hydrozoans, even if they are morphologically identical to each other, in reality belong to different species, a fact known as “cryptic species”.

Both of these phenomena may be involved in the taxonomic confusion surrounding the hydroid Stegopoma plicatile and the medusa Ptychogena crocea, the former a worldwide reported species, the latter a Norwegian endemism. How can a medusa be so restricted in distribution while its hydroid lives everywhere? Perhaps now we know the answer thanks to molecular tools: Stegopoma plicatile may represent a complex of species, hiding a misunderstood diversity, and similar S. plicatile hydroids may produce different Ptychogena medusae. In other words, perhaps the polyp does not have such a wide distribution, and records from other parts of the world should be re-examined in detail, paying special attention to the tiniest and easily overlooked details of its morphology. But of course this is a job only for very patient detectives…

Hydroids of Stegopoma plicatile (like this one) from all over the world look very similar to each other, but may produce very different medusae.

Hydroids of Stegopoma plicatile (like this one) from all over the world look very similar to each other, but may produce very different medusae.

These beautiful medusae of Ptychogena crocea collected in Korsfjord were sexually mature. You can see the four gonads as folded masses of yellow tissue in each jellyfish.

These beautiful medusae of Ptychogena crocea collected in Korsfjord were sexually mature. You can see the four gonads as folded masses of yellow tissue in each jellyfish.

Thus, this was the objective of my recent visit to the Bergen University Museum. An outstanding month surrounded by enthusiastic scientists, amazing landscapes, restricted doses of sun, and upcoming challenges: we trust that current and future analyses combining both molecular and morphological taxonomy will lead to settle the correspondence of Stegopoma hydroids with other Ptychogena-like medusae from all over the globe, or even to the description of new species to science!

Deploying the net with help of the crew from RV "Hans Brattstrøm"

Deploying the net with help of the crew from RV “Hans Brattstrøm”

Team-work during the sampling makes everything a lot easier!

Team-work during the sampling makes everything a lot easier!

The amazing crane of the RV "Hans Brattstrøm" allowed us to efficiently hunt for jellyfish at the fjords.

The amazing crane of the RV “Hans Brattstrøm” allowed us to efficiently hunt for jellyfish at the fjords.

This is what our samples look like when we finally get to look at them on board

This is what our samples look like when we finally get to look at them on board

-Joan

Getting back in business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Katrine

Happy Polychaete Day!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

gjester-januar-2016

 

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

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

Happy, hard working  students in the lab

Happy, hard working students in the lab

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

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

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

Goniobranchus kuniei. Longdong, NE Taiwan

Goniobranchus kuniei. Longdong, NE Taiwan

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some of the animals we encountered at Kenting:

Who are you?

Who are you?

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

A happy party of sea slug hunters in Penghu, Taiwan

A happy party of sea slug hunters in Penghu, Taiwan

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

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

Goniobranchus cf. sinensis

Goniobranchus cf. sinensis

Hypselodoris maritima

Hypselodoris maritima

A beautiful flatworm

A beautiful flatworm

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

A glimpse of the beautiful waterscapes at Longdong, Taiwan

A glimpse of the beautiful waterscapes at Longdong, Taiwan

Phyllidia ocellata Longdong, NE Taiwan

Phyllidia ocellata Longdong, NE Taiwan

Thuridilla sp. Longdong, NE Taiwan

Thuridilla sp. Longdong, NE Taiwan

Halgerda carlsoni Longdong, NE Taiwan

Halgerda carlsoni Longdong, NE Taiwan

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

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

-Manuel Malaquias, Natural History Museum of Bergen, UiB