Our PhD student Nina T. Mikkelsen, with co-laborators Kevin Kocot and Kenneth Halanych, are now publishing results from their examination of the mitochondrial genomes of the aplacophoran molluscs. The paper is available from Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution at this link: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ympev.2018.04.031
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
As told last week, we are currently hosting the international course on Annelid Systematics, Morphology and Evolution at the University of Bergen’s field station. Here’s a little update of what we have been up to since the previous post:
The days are pretty packed, with lectures, sampling, and lab work – thankfully both students and teachers are enjoying the work, and the mood in the lab is sunny (even if the Bergen “summer” is somewhat…fickle these days). We have covered a multitude of research topics, methods, habitats, and annelid groups so far, with still more to come.
We’ll keep blogging from the from the course, so check back!
You can also get some glimpses of the exciting world of Worm researchers (!) by checking the tag #annelidacourse2017 on Twitter (you don’t need an account to do that, just click the link).
The two-week long International Course on Annelid Systematics, Morphology and Evolution is up and running at the Espegrend Marine Biological Station!
The course is held by the University Museum of Bergen in cooperation with the Moscow State University and ForBio (Research School in Biosystematics). It is sponsored by SPIRE (Strategic Programme for International Research and Education) and SIU (Norwegian Centre for International Cooperation in Education). More info about the course can be found here.
Twenty students and eighteen course organizers and instructors from Norway, Russia and 10 more countries are participating in the course, which is being held in the University of Bergen’s marine research station at Espegrend.
The course has started with a lecture on basic concepts in phylogenetics and evolution following by Endre Willassen, followed by the talks on phylogeny of Annelida by Ken Halanych (Auburn University) and Conrad Helm (Sars Centre).
We have been samplingwith both R/V Hans Brattstrøm and the smaller boat Aurelia in several benthic biotopes in the vicinity of the station, and have collected plenty of serpulids and siboglinids among other worm families.
The first laboratory session focused on Sabellida and Siboglinidae and were taught by Maria Capa (NTNU), Nadya Rimskaya-Korsakova (MSU) and Glafira Kolbasova (MSU). Nadya has brought few large vestimentiferans from the Moscow collection and the students got the opportunity to look at famous hydrothermal vent tubeworms.
We’ll be blogging more from the from the course, so check back! You can also get some glimpses of the exciting world of Worm researchers by checking the tag #annelidacourse2017 on Twitter.
This adventure started 26 years ago, when two Norwegian benthos researchers (Torleiv Brattegard from University of Bergen and Jon-Arne Sneli from the University in Trondheim) teamed up with three Icelandic benthos specialists (Jörundur Svavarsson and Guðmundur V. Helgasson from University of Iceland and Guðmundur Guðmundsson from the Natural History Museum of Iceland) to study the seas surrounding the volcanic home of the Nordic sages. 19 cruises and 13 years later – and not least lots of exciting scientific findings and results the BioICE program was finished.
But science never stops. New methods are developed and old methods are improved – and the samples that were stored in formalin during the BioICE project can not be used easily for any genetic studies. They are, however, very good for examinations of the morphology of the many invertebrate species that were collected, and they are still a source of much interesting science.
The dream about samples that could be DNA-barcoded (and possibly examined further with molecular methods) lead to a new project being formed – IceAGE. A large inernational collaboration of scientists organised by researchers from the University of Hamburg (and still including researchers from both the University of Iceland and the University of Bergen) have been on two cruises (2011 and 2013) so far – and there is already lots of material to look at!
This week many of the researchers connected with the IceAGE project have gathered in Spała in Poland – at a researchstation in woods that are rumoured to be inhabited by bison and beavers (we didn´t see any, but we have seen the results of the beavers work). Some of us have discussed theories and technical stuff for the papers and reports that are to come from the project, and then there are “the coolest gang” – the amphipodologists. 10 scientists of this special “species” have gathered in two small labs in the field-station, and we have sorted and identified amphipods into the wee hours.
It is both fun and educational to work together. Everybody have their special families they like best, and little tricks to identify the difficult taxa, and so there is always somebody to ask when you don´t find out what you are looking at. Between the stories about amphipod-friends and old times we have friendly fights about who can eat the most chocolate, and we build dreams about the perfect amphipodologist holiday. Every now and then somebody will say “come look at this amazing amphipod I have under my scope now!” – we have all been treated to species we have never seen before, but maybe read about. We also have a box of those special amphipods – the “possibly a new species”- tubes. When there is a nice sample to examine, you might hear one of the amphipodologist hum a happy song, and when the sample is all amphipods but no legs or antennae (this can happen to samples stored in ethanol – they become brittle) you might hear frustrated “hrmpfing” before the chocolate is raided.
The samples from IceAGE are all stored in ethanol. This is done to preserve the DNA for molecular studies – studies that can give us new and exciting results to questions we have thought about for a long time, and to questions we maybe didn´t even know we needed asking. We can test if what looks like the same species really is the same species, and we can find out more about the biogeography of the different species and communities.
The geographical area covered by IceAGE borders to the geographical area covered by NorAmph and NorBOL, and it makes great sense to collaborate. This summer we will start with comparing DNA-barcodes of amphipods from the family Eusiridae from IceAGE and NorAmph. They are as good a starting-point as any, and they are beautiful (Eusirus holmii was described in the norwegian blog last summer).
Happy easter from all the amphiods and amphipodologists!
Brix S (2014) The IceAGE project – a follow up of BIOICE. Polish Polar Research 35, 1-10
Dauvin J−C, Alizier S, Weppe A, Guðmundsson G (2012) Diversity and zoogeography of Ice−
landic deep−sea Ampeliscidae (Crustacea: Amphipoda). Deep Sea Research Part I: 68: 12–23.
Svavarsson J (1994) Rannsóknir á hryggleysingjum botns umhverfis Ísland. Íslendingar og hafiđ.
Vísindafélag Íslendinga, Ráđstefnurit 4: 59–74.
Svavarsson J, Strömberg J−O, Brattegard T (1993) The deep−sea asellote (Isopoda,
Crustacea) fauna of the Northern Seas: species composition, distributional patterns and origin. Journal of Biogeography 20: 537–555.
It is a sad fact, but a fact nonetheless. Most biologists are not taxonomists. Even so – the work many biologists do is based on knowing the species studied, and knowing the correct name is part of that important knowledge.
But how do we know what names are valid, and what species have been formally described within a group? Taxonomic revisions tend to have name-changes as a result, and new species are described all the time – for amphipods an average of 140 species new to science are described yearly…
This is where databases will be your best friend! For marine species, the World Record of Marine Species, WoRMS, database is used widely, with more than 200 000 visits every month. Here you can find not only current accepted names, but also information about synonymised names, taxonomic literature, and for some species information about distribution, ecological traits and links to other resources. The data have all been checked and edited by a world-wide team of taxonomic and thematic editors – all responsible for their special groups of organisms.
This week, 22 of the 34 taxonomic editors of the World Amphipoda Database, feeding WoRMS with all Amphipod-related information, gathered at the Flanders Marine Institute in Oostende, Belgium to learn about how to best edit the information about Amphipods. It was two days full of information about the database, but also of hands-on training and with the help of the nice people in the Data Management Team of WoRMS, we managed to get quite a lot of information added and edited on the database. Needless to say, with more than 9000 amphipod species accepted (and several of them with earlier names or alternate representations), we have not completely finished yet. The work on editing a database is continuous – and we have plans for adding more info for each species, including type-information, ecological information and links to identification keys.
The second best thing about going to workshops (the first being all the exciting new things we learn), is that we get to spend time with colleagues from far away. The people working on amphipods are in many ways my extended family – this is at least how it feels whenever we meet. News about both amphipods and life in general are exchanged, possible new projects are planned, and friendships continue to be reinforced over cups of coffee, early breakfasts and late dinners. And every time we leave each other, there is a hope that our next meeting might not be too far away. My colleagues from Poland call this “the Amphipoda way of life” – and this friendly, collaborate life is a good life to have as a researcher.
Horton, T.; Lowry, J.; De Broyer, C.; Bellan-Santini, D.; Coleman, C. O.; Daneliya, M.; Dauvin, J-C.; Fišer, C.; Gasca, R.; Grabowski, M.; Guerra-García, J. M.; Hendrycks, E.; Holsinger, J.; Hughes, L.; Jaume, D.; Jazdzewski, K.; Just, J.; Kamaltynov, R. M.; Kim, Y.-H.; King, R.; Krapp-Schickel, T.; LeCroy, S.; Lörz, A.-N.; Senna, A. R.; Serejo, C.; Sket, B.; Tandberg, A.H.; Thomas, J.; Thurston, M.; Vader, W.; Väinölä, R.; Vonk, R.; White, K.; Zeidler, W. (2016) World Amphipoda Database. Accessed at http://www.marinespecies.org/amphipoda on 2016-04-07
WoRMS-info on workshop: http://www.marinespecies.org/news.php?p=show&id=4531
We started early with visitors for 2016; Mario arrived already on the 4th of January!
Mario’s home institution is the University of Antioquia, in Medellin, Colombia, and the contrast to snow covered (and/or rain swept) Bergen has been great; this was his first time having snow beneath his shoes.
Another of our polychaete collaborators, Arne Nygren from Sjöfartsmuseet Akvariet in Gothenburg (Artsprosjekt can be found here (NO)) seized the chance to visit as well, and together with the resident polychaetologists (Jon, Tom and Nataliya) it meant that we suddenly had an impromptu polychaete workshop on our hands 🙂
Being able to meet in person makes the work flow smoother all around, as work was delegated and plans concretized. 2016 is likely to be a year with much focus on the Polychaeta, as it is both the final year of the PolyNor project (ends in spring), and the year of the 12th International Polychaete Conference, which will be held in Cardiff, Wales.
During Mario’s month-long stay he was examining the collection of terebellids from West Africa and the museum’s collection of the bristle worm genus Pista, much of which will later be barcoded through NorBOL (for the Norwegian material) and MIWA (for our West African samples).
In his own words:
I usually work on the morphology of just one of the several families of polychaetes, the Terebellidae, or spaghetti worms. This visit has been very important since we have been able to separate four Pista species from the North Sea, using both morphological and molecular tools. “The combination of these two different methods has been superb”.
Jon, Arne and I began this study during August 2014, but this undertaking seems like it will never end because we keep adding more material. The recent findings have been the significance of some characters that did not have taxonomical importance in the past. Now, they are the clues for splitting very close species.
But this is not enough; it was possible to identify 43 species of terebellids belonging to 16 different genera, from material collected along the West African coasts.
This is a high polychaete diversity in only one family. For example, we found three Lysilla species, in a region with only one recorded species. New species? Highly possible. One can only wonder what the diversity of the remaining families is?
All this was accompanied with a perfect view through the window, seeing it snow some days, or watching the Sun on the mountains in front; some times with white top mountains, some times with deep blue sky. A landscape like that never could be my company in my tropical city.
Thank you for visiting, it was very nice having you here – we wish you the best of luck with your next adventure in Antarctica!
As mentioned earlier in our calendar, we have an extensive cooperation going on with the seabed mapping programme MAREANO*. You can read a lot more about MAREANO on the project home page, where you will also find many interesting videos and beautiful photographs from – quite literally – the bottom of the sea, as video transects are extensively used for mapping the sea floor and its biodiversity.
MAREANO very recently published a book named “The Norwegian Sea Floor – New Knowledge from MAREANO for Ecosystem-based Management”. As it presents the uniquely detailed mapping that is being carried out, it has received much attention (also internationally, more about that here and here (in Norwegian)). You can access the book as a pdf though the MAREANO web pages – check it out!
We wanted to include a post in our advent calendar about the part the University Museum plays regarding the thousands and thousands of biological samples that MAREANO generates. The MAREANO material is a big part of our everyday work here, and so it’s been blogged about before: follow the links to learn more our about cruise participation, workshops (e.g. here and here), new species described from UM based on MAREANO-material, and genetic barcoding through the Norwegian Barcode of Life (NorBOL) project.
Every station with physical biological sampling typically includes two grab samples, one or two RP-sledge drags, and one beam trawl. Combined with video and all sorts of geological and chemical data collected, this gives us a thorough insight to the biodiversity at the location. The samples collected by different gears are naturally also treated differently; you can see how they are split up in this figure:
Now, any project – even one as extensive as MAREANO – does have a finite life span, whereas museum collections are (at least in theory) here for “eternity”. This means that we have to try and envision what material will be important not just right now, but also in the future – whilst we simultaneously deal with the constraints of limited time and space. It is not feasible to keep everything, but we do try our best to make sure that we keep that which is most important. The fact that MAREANO collects material not only in formalin (good for morphological studies), but also in ethanol (which – unlike formalin – enables us to do genetic analysis) is hugely important as we get the best of both worlds delivered – by the pallet!
Once we receive a shipment of material, we get to work – the identified animals are unpacked, and an assessment is done on how to proceed with them; catalogue them into the museum collection, interim catalogue them into our “project catalogue”, leave them untreated for now, catalogue and pass it on to researchers working on that particular group of animals, to include it in our current projects, or discard it.
The unsorted fractions require even more TLC; the first step is for us to separate the animals from the sediment – from there on it goes through much the same process as the identified critters. These unsorted (and mostly ethanol-fixed) samples have yielded many interesting finds, and will undoubtedly continue to do so! We have so far submitted over 1300 specimens collected by MAREANO to be DNA-barcoded through the NorBOL project, and this number will continue to rise.
But why do we need to keep all this material? Isn’t it “done” once MAREANO has done their identification of the fractions that they process? Of course not!
This material is a veritable gold mine for scientists, and it keeps on giving; MAREANO in it self aggregates a huge amount of interesting data (see here, for instance).
However, there are still many animal species groups that are extremely difficult to identify and when specialists on specific groups get the chance to compare specimens from different regions of the world, they very often find that original taxonomic identifications have to be revised. There are many reasons for that. Specimens may simply be misidentified. The revising taxonomist may also discover that specimens of the same species are called with different names in different laboratories. With applications of DNA-techniques it may also became apparent that what was originally considered to be one widespread species is actually several different species that have to be described and named.
So there are at least two main reasons why museums are eager to access and store material from projects like MAREANO and MIWA. One is the fantastic opportunity to get fresh specimen for research. Another reason is to safeguard and document the physical objects that the data were based on and to offer open access to study the specimens for the scientific community of researchers in biodiversity. Taxonomic studies may take a lot of time to complete, and taxonomists are scarce – so new results will continue to emerge at erratic intervals.
Thus the collected material is – and will continue to be – invaluable to scientific community for many, many years to come. There are still many new species waiting to be discovered (such as the little polychaete Ampharete undecima (Alvestad et al 2014), or the Amphipod Halirages helgae (Ringvold & Tandberg 2014), and there is much, much more to be learned about the distribution, habitats and life history of the species that we do know.
Therefore we are both proud and grateful to play a part in the safekeeping of this valuable material, and hope that it will continue to bring exciting new knowledge!
Alvestad T., Kongsrud J.A., and Kongshavn , K. (2014) Ampharete undecima, a new deep-sea ampharetid (Annelida, Polychaeta) from the Norwegian Sea . Memoirs of Museum Victoria 71:11-19 Open Access.
Ringvold, H & Tandberg, A.H. (2014) A new deepwater species of Calliopiidae, Halirages helgae
(Crustacea, Amphipoda), with a synoptic table to Halirages species from the northeast Atlantic http://dx.doi.org/10.5852/ejt.2014.98
-Katrine & Endre
(*For those wondering: MAREANO is short for Marine AREAl database for NOrwegian sea areas)
The lab is rather quiet today, compared with the frantic activity of last week – but there’s still plenty of work to do! We’ll catalog the identified material – several hundred entries – into our museum collections.
For NorBOL, a total of 250 polychaete specimens from 154 different species were selected for genetic barcoding, that’s pretty impressive! In addition, some of our participants selected material to loan with them, these will also in part become NorBOL-barcodes.
We’ll process these as quickly as we can, taking pictures, filling in the forms and taking tissue samples for analysis at the CCDB lab in Canada – fingers crossed for a high success rate on the sequencing!
As mentioned previously we focused on the MAREANO-material, but supplemented with other samples – including those that we have collected ourselves. That meant that beauties like this one (picture below) could be examined in detail by an expert, and get properly identified before we send it off to become part of the BOLD-database.
Thank you to all our participants for a very productive and fun week!
Our lab is currently brimming with polychaetologists (those working with the polychaeta, the bristle worms), as we’re in the middle of this year’s PolyNor workshop (Polychaete diversity in the Norwegian Sea).
We have eleven participants (five nationalities) here, and all are working hard to assign names to animals, fill up our lists of material to be cataloged into the University Museum’s collections, accumulation data for their own research projects, and selecting material suitable for barcoding through the NORBOL-project.
The majority of the samples that we are working on have been collected through the MAREANO-programme, but we are supplementing with material collected around Bergen, closer to the coast and into the fjords, and material collected around Svalbard.