Tag Archives: bold

Door #5: DNA-barcoding with BOLD

Much of the activities in our invertebrate collections are dedicated to so-called DNA-barcoding. Our mission in the NORBOL consortium is to produce DNA-barcodes, particularly for marine fauna in Norwegian waters and to make these barcodes available with open access to records and metadata in Boldsystems.com. In the same manner we have also worked to produce DNA-barcodes for marine invertebrates on the West-African continental shelf in a project called we call MIWA.

These QR-codes will take you to maps with plots of specimens that have been barcoded in our projects (or simply click on them. The red dots on the maps are interactive):

QR-code to view our barcoding efforts in NORBOL

QR-code to view our barcoding in the MIWA project

The basic idea motivating these activities is very simple in principle. You collect specimens and identify them, preferably to species, take digital photographs, and upload information about collection site and other relevant data to a database (BOLDsystems.org).

The specimen page has a picture and other data about the organism that the DNA sequence (presumably) was produced from (click picture to enlarge).

You take a tissue sample to extract DNA from the specimen and use DNA-sequencing technology to target a special fragment of DNA to read the sequence of nucleotides. The expectation is that this sequence may be unique for the particular species you identified.  If indeed the expectation is fulfilled, you can use that sequence as an unambiguous identifier (“bar-code”) of that species.  You have produced a DNA-barcode!

A sequence page in BOLD contains the DNA-sequence (the barcode), the aminoacid translation of the sequence, and the trace-files from the DNA-sequencing machine.(Click picture to enlarge)

Your barcode should enter a DNA-barcode library so that, with an appropriate web-interface to a powerful computer with a search algorithm that compares similarities, you should be able to search with a second sequence from another individual of the same species and find that it is identical, or at least very similar to the one you produced for the DNA-barcode library.  The benefits are potentially many. One advantage is that you may be able to identify a species although all the morphological characteristics have been lost. For the biologist DNA-barcodes may help to identify juvenile stages of a species or even the stomach contents of a predator or scavenger. For conservation, customs, trade, and food authorities DNA barcodes are a powerful means to monitor resource exploitation and attempts to swindle with species identities or area of origin of  biological products.

A taxon window in BOLD fro the crab Atelecyclus undecimdentatus. (Click picture to enlarge)

DNA-barcoding certainly also contributes to the mapping of species distributions and to survey genetic characteristics of taxa. Perhaps initially somewhat unexpected, it also reveals many problems in taxonomy that call for resolution through closer studies. More about this will follow in other blog posts.


Berthella sideralis, a rarity finally documented alive and barcoded!

The Pleurobranchidae sea slug species Berthella sideralis was described by the Swedish malacologist Sven Ludvig Lovén in 1846 based on specimens collect at Bohuslän, in southern Sweden not far from the city of Gothenburg. This species has hardly been mentioned in the literature after its original description, and no images of life species are to our best knowledge available in books, research papers or even web platforms – until now!

A synthesis of the morphological features of B. sideralis can be found in Cervera et al. (2010) who studied in detail two specimens collected during 1930’s in Trondheimfjord as part of a phylogenetic study of the genus Berthella.

Recently, in late November 2015 during a Museum scientific cruise – there is a blog post about this day of field work here – we collected one specimen in Hjeltefjorden (around Bergen) at 220 meters depth using an RP-sledge. This specimen is here documented and was recently genetically barcoded as part of our effort to barcode the Norwegian marine fauna through the NorBOL project.

A live specimen of Berthella sideralis. Ths scale bar i 5 mm. Photo: K. Kongshavn

A live specimen of Berthella sideralis. The scale bar i 5 mm. Photo: K. Kongshavn

Berthella sideralis is only known from Sweden and Norway. In Norway it has been reported between Bergen and Finnmark.

Reference: Cervera, J L., Gosliner, T. M., García-Gómez, J. C., & Ortea, J. A. 2010. A new species of Berthella Blainville, 1824 (Opisthobranchia, Notaspidea) from the Canary Island (Eastern Atlantic Ocean), with a re-examination of the phylogenetic relationships of the Notaspidea. Journal of Molluscan Studies, 66: 301–311.

-Manuel & Katrine

Door #4: A cushioned star

This gorgeous sea star was first described by O.F. Müller in 1776. He gave it a species name fitting the characteristic appearance of the animal (Lat. Pulvillus= pillow, cushion). The common names in both English – Red Cushion Star- and Norwegian – Sypute – also reflect on this. Though most commonly red like the specimen pictured below, they can also be yellow-white. The white protrusions on the upper side the are gills. It lives at 10-300 meters depth, where it is often seen feeding on the coral Alcyonium digitatum. This particular specimen was collected during the course in marine faunistics this fall, in a locality just outside our field station close to Bergen.

Porania-001 ZMBN_106039_2Strangely enough, considering how common, conspicuous and wide-spread the species is, it has not been barcoded very frequently in BOLD – our specimen here will be the fifth in total to be submitted..!

Screen shot from a search in BOLD for the species

Screen shot from a search in BOLD for Porania pulvillus