I just completed photographing and tissue sampling 95 specimens that will be submitted for barcoding through NorBOL – we’ll send them to the CCDB-lab in Canada for sequencing, and upload the metadata and sequences in the BOLD database – fingers crossed for successful sequencing!
One of the cool things with the NorBOL-project is that it allows us spotlight animal groups that we don’t normally get to do much with. One such group is the sea spiders, or Pycnogonida. These spider-like critters wander around on the seafloor looking for other invertebrates to snack on (some also live on detritus and algae), and (presumably) for love. I certainly find a lot of them carrying egg sacks and young ones, so they must succeed every now and then! In the Pycnogonida, it is the males who care for the laid eggs and the young, rolling the eggs into one or several balls that he carries around on his ovigers.
The ones I photographed ranged from tiny to over 30 cm:
At first glance they look a lot like the spiders we find on land, but they are really a very different class of animals (literally!); The sea spiders are found within Animalia (Kingdom) > Arthropoda (Phylum) > Chelicerata (Subphylum) > Pycnogonida (Class) (from WoRMS), whilst “land spiders” are found within the order Aranea in the class Arachnida.
Extant memebers of the Pycnogonidae are found within the order Pantopoda, which translates into “all legs”, which describes them quite well! They have even moved most of their internal organs (of which they have rather few; respiration is done across the body surface, so no gills) into the legs.
The more I look at them, the funnier they look – but that may be in the eye of the beholder, as a few arachnophobes passing by the camera have declared loudly that there is nothing charming to find here – I beg to disagree!
They are usually slow movers: Hover over the image to see a pycnogonid walking on the sea floor
To fill a plate with tissue samples from 95 specimens (1 animal = 1 specimen) of pycnogonida doesn’t sound too complicated, does it? Well, it turned out to be a bit of an adventure to gather enough animals that had been preserved in such a way that we could get DNA out of them (older material is usually fixated in Formaldehyde, which makes it unsuited for genetic work), and that was identified (had a name to them). Since we are in the process of building up the national (and international) reference library (the BOLD database) that the short DNA-segments (the “barcodes”) are to be matched up to later when someone wants to know which species “Animal X” belongs to, we need to know which species we are submitting for sequencing.
Our collection of barcode-compatible identified pycnogonids received a welcome boost when the shipment of processed material (identified, and measured for biomass) from MAREANO‘s beamtrals collected in 2013 arrived, as these had been fixated in ethanol – and identified by researchers who have worked extensively with the group.
Even so, I couldn’t fill a whole plate with only those specimens. Thankfully, I have skilled collegues that were able to put species names to almost all of the critters I could hunt down in our collections, and so now we have 95 animals ready from 26 different species! We also have some bona fide mysteries that we hope the BOLD-database will help us solve as well; animals that does not comply with any of the identification keys…!
Fingers crossed for a very successful sequence run and a lot of new information about the Pycnogonida of Norway!
King, P.E. 1974: British Sea Spiders, synopses of the British Fauna (New Series) No. 5
Does that not sound appealing?
It was actually a lovely event!
The 12th International Polychaete Conference took place in Cardiff, Wales during the first week of August. These events have been taking place every third year since 1981, and the previous one was in Sydney, Australia in 2013.
During an intensive week of presentations and posters spanning topics within Systematics, Phylogeny, Ecology, Methodologies, Biodiversity, Biodiversity and Ecology, Morphology, Reproduction & Larval Ecology, Development, and Polychaete studies, people had the chance to showcase their work, and learn more about what others are working on. The local organising committee invited us to “Have a happy conference, re-connecting with those already known, meeting correspondents for the first time, ans making new connections and new friends” – and I think we can safely say that the mission was accomplished!
Cardiff – and the National Museum Wales – was an excellent venue for “polychaetologists” from all over the globe.
In all we were 190 attendees from about 30 countries present – including a sizeable Norwegian group! Some of us (below) gave talks, and most were also involved in posters. Results and material from large projects and surveys such as PolyNor (Polychaete diversity in Nordic Seas), MAREANO (Marine AREA database for NOrwegian waters), NorBOL (The Norwegian Barcode of Life), and MIWA (Marine Invertebrates of West Africa) were all well incorporated in the Norwegian contributions.
There were in fact a lot of contributions involving one or more collaborators from a Norwegian institution (UM, NTNU, NIVA, The SARS center, NHM Oslo, Akvaplan-NIVA ++) being presented during the conference. It is really nice to see that the community is growing through recruitment of both students and international researchers.
As Torkild said in his excellent blog post (in Norwegian, translation by me):
With so many active participants in the field, a lot of exciting research is being carried out in Norway. Not only do we have many projects – large and small – running at our institutions involving our “regular” Norwegian collaborators; there is also a significant proportion of international participation in these projects.
Furthermore, our activities enable researchers from all over the world to visit or loan from our scientific collections, and study the substantial (new) material that the projects are generating. It is nice to see that our efforts are being recognized in the international community! The recent flurry of activities has been well aided by the Norwegian Species Initiative (Artsprosjektet) (and the MIWA-project at UM).
The majority of our research is based on, or incorporates, museum material from our collections. The collections have been built over years, decades and even centuries, and continue to increase in scientific value as new science is added.
It is gratifying to see the material being used, and we hope it will gain even more attention in the aftermath of the conference.
The University Museum was well represented, both in attendance, and in contributions. Below is a list of what we (co-)authored, presenting author is in bold, and University Museum people are in italics. We plan on posting some of the posters here, so stay tuned for that!
- Giants vs pygmies: two strategies in the evolution of deep-sea quill worms (Onuphidae, Annelida)
Nataliya Budaeva, Hannelore Paxton, Pedro Ribeiro, Pilar Haye, Dmitry Schepetov, Javier Sellanes, Endre Willassen
- DNA barcoding contributing to new knowledge on diversity and distribution of Polychaeta (Annelida) in Norwegian and adjacent waters
Torkild Bakken, Jon A. Kongsrud, Katrine Kongshavn, Eivind Oug, Tom Alvestad, Nataliya Budaeva, Arne Nygren, Endre Willassen
- Diversity and phylogeny of Diopatra bristle worms (Onuphidae, Annelida) from West Africa
Martin Hektoen, Nataliya Budaeva
- Experiences after three years of automated DNA barcoding of Polychaeta
Katrine Kongshavn, Jon Anders Kongsrud, Torkild Bakken, Tom Alvestad, Eivind Oug, Arne Nygren, Nataliya Budaeva, Endre Willassen
- Diversity and species distributions of Glyceriformia in shelf areas off western Africa
Lloyd Allotey, Akanbi Bamikole Williams, Jon Anders Kongsrud, Tom Alvestad, Katrine Kongshavn, Endre Willassen
- Eclysippe Eliason, 1955 (Annelida, Ampharetidae) from the North Atlantic with the description of a new species from Norwegian waters
Tom Alvestad, Jon Anders Kongsrud, Katrine Kongshavn
- Phylogeny of Ampharetidae
Mari Heggernes Eilertsen, Tom Alvestad, Hans Tore Rapp, Jon Anders Kongsrud
- Ophelina (Polychaeta, Opheliidae) in Norwegian waters and adjacent areas – taxonomy, identification and species distributions
Jon Anders Kongsrud, Eivind Oug, Torkild Bakken, Arne Nygren, Katrine Kongshavn
- Pista Malmgren, 1866 (Terebellidae) from Norway and adjacent areas
Mario H. Londoño-Mesa, Arne Nygren, Jon Anders Kongsrud
- Lumbrineridae (Annelida, Polychaeta) from Norwegian and adjacent waters with the description of a new deep-water species of Abyssoninoe
Eivind Oug, Katrine Kongshavn, Jon Anders Kongsrud
- Nephtyidae (Polychaeta, Phyllodocida) of West African shelf areas
Ascensão Ravara, Jon Anders Kongsrud, Tom Alvestad
- Phylogeny of the family Maldanidae based on molecular data
Morten Stokkan, Jon Anders Kongsrud, Endre Willassen
We had a mid-week excursion where we got to see a bit more of our hosting country; namely the impressive Caerphilly Castle constructed in the 13th century and still looking magnificent today, and a lovely lunch at the Llanerch wineyard with time for informal mingling and catching up.
Note the red dragon in the Castle wall; this is the dragon of the Welsh flag. The story goes something like this (according to Wikipedia, at least!): From the Historia Brittonum, written around 830 a text describes a struggle between two serpents deep underground, which prevents King Vortigern from building a stronghold. This story was later adapted into a prophecy made by the wizard Myrddin (or Merlin) of a long fight between a red dragon and a white dragon. According to the prophecy, the white dragon, representing the Saxons, would at first dominate but eventually the red dragon, symbolising the Britons, would be victorious.
Being museum people (er..? People employed at a museum, I mean!) ourselves, we made sure to visit the exhibitions as well, and especially the new “Wriggle!” exhibition, which is all about..worms! Lots of fun, and a*a lot* of information packed in. Make sure to visit it, if you get the chance!
Finally, we would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to the arranging committee – DIOLCH!
ps: Dw i’n hoffi mwydod!
Release the Kraken!
Oh, dear… this challenge:
Please share your love of biodiversity this Valentine’s Day with the hashtag #bdvalentine.
Have fun and help raise awareness of biodiversity and conservation!
We’ll be on Twitter and Facebook celebrating all day on Friday, February 12th with “Biodiversity Valentines.” Tweet your best biodiversity-themed Valentine message with the hashtag #bdvalentine. You can borrow from our growing Facebook gallery of #bdvalentine images here: https://goo.gl/dZkQdS .
Get your creative juices flowing (and your creative and communications folks brainstorming)! We’ll retweet and create a gallery of your images all day on Friday, February 12th.
At JRS, we’re working to increase the use of biodiversity data and information services for conservation and sustainable development in Africa. We love biodiversity data. Join in with your #bdvalentine!
ticked into our in-box from the JRS Biodiversity Foundation a couple of days ago, and we decided to give it a spin.
Now, biologists seem to gravitate towards punny (and occasionally funny) humour, and there’s been an avalanche of submissions and suggestions on what we could post.
Here’s a selection of submissions from the Invertebrate collections, we hope you’ll enjoy them!
Well, we sure had fun – we hope you did too!
Make sure to check out other contributions to the hashtag #bdvalentine on Twitter and Facebook.
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)
What does an organism really look like – and how does that organism make us feel, what thought does it inspire, and what beauty is hidden within their complex structures?
Anne Helene and Pippip look at the same organsims, but from different perspectives. Anne Helene works as a scientist at the Invertebrate Collections and Pippip Ferner is an artist who is very inspired by marine biology and marine organisms in her work.
As biologists we have the privilege to see many of the wonders of nature up close as part of our job. But how can we share that with the rest of you – all of us who didn´t go to that cruise, or don´t study that exact organism?
Historically, artists used to be part of most large projects – as documentarists. This tradition still stands, but now it is often the scientists that make drawings of what we see, and often more importantly: what details are the important ones for the scientific studies. Where does the pure artistic (non-documentary) work fit now?
Pippip´s long interest in marine biology has lead to her participation on a scientific cruise with MAREANO, where she met Anne Helene. Being on a cruise and observing animals live, talking with the scientists and see (part of?) what they see lead to a series of sketches that resulted in many paintings, sculptures and prints.
She wants to look at the marine biology from a non-scientific view point, to look at details or whole organisms and see new shapes and explore textures. Where the scientist has to stick to the strict morphology of the organism, Pippip can look at what is not seen.
Here are some of Pippips examinations of amphipods – and some photos and scientific drawings of some amphipods that might have been inspiring her. In Pippips own words, she aims to “ contrast beauty against ugliness, weak against strong, small againt large.” This might make it both easy and difficult to recognise her objects, and her pictures might be both simple and complex at the same time.
Much of our scientific work is to observe minute details in our chosen organisms. Looking at amphipods scientifically means looking for serrations along curved ridges, counting small hairs (seta) and seeing if they have split ends, looking at shapes of mouthparts and lengths of feet and antennae, and documenting this with photos and drawings.
Having the luck and joy of seeing these same organisms represented artistically can give an added dimension to our work. It also gives the possibility for all the rest of you to get another gate to come in contact with our organisms through.
Maybe taking both views into account will help us learn and understand even more? The scientific and artistic views can supplement each other, and have been doing so already for generations.
The collaboration between Pippip and Anne Helene continues – yesterday Pippip visited the Invertebrate Lab, to get new ideas and inspirations for further artistic examinations… We are sure more beautiful, inspiring and maybe provoking representations of marine life will continue to come from this collaboration. Be sure to follow us!
– Anne Helene and Pippip
Today’s critter is a Lithodes maja, or Northern stone crab (Trollkrabbe in Norwegian). They live in depths between 80-500 meters, where they feed on algae, bottom dwelling animals, and of scavenging. They are much smaller than their relatives the King crab (Paralithdodes camtschaticus), reaching up to 150 mm across the carapace.
Despite the name, they are not true crabs – Brachyura, but rather Anomurans: “As decapods (meaning ten-legged), anomurans have ten pereiopods (legs), but the last pair of these is reduced in size, and often hidden inside the gill chamber (under the carapace) to be used for cleaning the gills. Since this arrangement is very rare in true crabs (for example, the small family Hexapodidae), a “crab” with only eight visible pereiopods is generally an anomuran.” (Wikipedia)
Martin encountered this one when participating on this year’s final MAREANO survey in the Barents Sea. MAREANO has been working on mapping the depth and topography, sediment composition, contaminants, biotopes and habitats through a combination of video stations and physical sampling of sediments and animals in Norwegian waters since 2006.
A cruise typically lasts between 10 and 20 days, and for most years MAREANO has had 2-3 cruises. The amount of stations and collected material is staggering!
Below is a map over the “full stations”, the stations that also include physical samples of biological material from grab, sled and trawl. These samples are split into fractions, some to be further processed by MAREANO, whilst others are bulk fixated without further analysis. The MAREANO-identified animals and unsorted fractions from these stations are deposited at the University Museum once MAREANO is done with them. We then continue to process them; decide which samples are significant, sort the unsorted fractions, implement material into the museum collections, and make it available for further research. For the interactive maps, go here.
-Martin & Katrine
- 5 days
- ~200 talks
- ~240 posters
- 35 nationalities
- 360 enthusiastic participants
- Immeasurable cups of coffee & lots of pastries
The 14th Deep-Sea Biology Symposium was arranged in Aveiro, Portugal between 31st of August and 4th of September, and these happy people were amongst the participants.
The Norwegian University/museum entourage came from the Biological Institute (9), the University Museum (4), and the NTNU University Museum (1).
The topics of the conference was divided into seven main themes:
- Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning
- Advances in taxonomy and phylogeny
- Connectivity and biogeography
- Evolutionary history and fossil records
- Natural and anthropogenic disturbance
- Stewardship of our deep oceans (DOSI)
(more details about the themes can be found here)
Our contributions ranged from sponges to fish, and included both talks and posters.
In no particular order (UM people in bold):
Eilertsen MH, Kongsrud JA, Rapp HT – Evolutionary history of Ampharetinae (Ampharetidae, Annelida) adapted to chemosynthetic ecosystems
Hestetun JT, Vacelet J, Boury-Esnault N et al – Phylogenetic relationships of carnivorous sponges
Rees DJ, Byrkjedal I, Sutton TT – Pruning the pearlsides: reconciling morphology and molecules in mesopelagic fishes (Maurolicus: Sternoptychidae)
Bakken T, Oug E, Kongsrud JA, Alvestad T, Kongshavn, K – Polychaetous annelids in the deep Nordic Seas: strong bathymetric gradients, low deep-sea diversity and underdeveloped taxonomy
Xavier JR, Marco J, Rapp HT, Davies AJ – Predicting suitable habitat for the bird’s nest sponge Pheronema carpenteri (Porifera, Hexactinellida) in the Northeast Atlantic
Kongshavn K, Kongsrud JA, Tandberg AHS, Alvestad, T, Bakken, T, Oug, E, Willassen E – Intergrating DNA-barcoding and morphology to study marine invertebrates – Exploring biodiversity and biogeography of deep-sea polychaetes in the Norwegian Sea
Hestetun JT, Xavier JR, Rapp HT – Carnivorous sponges from the Southwestern Indian Ocean Ridge seamounts
Alvizu A, Tendal OS, Rapp HT – Deep-water calcareous sponges (Calcarea: Porifera) from the Norwegian, Greenland and Iceland Seas (GIN) – from abyssal plains to mid-ocean ridges and hydrothermal vents
(Xavier JR), Pereira R, Gomes Pereira JN, Tempera F et al – Sponge assemblages of the Condor seamount (Azores) characterized from underwater imagery
Olsen BR, Troedsson C, Hadziavdic K et al – The influence of hydrothermal fluids on pelagic eukaryotic microorganism diversity and subsequent prey selection in a pelagic amphipod in the Nordic Seas
In addition to these direct contributions, it was very gratifying to see our friends and colleagues presents results that were in part based on University Museum assistance, whether through participation on cruises with us, loans of material, visits to the Museum collections or data made available. Quite a few of our photos also found their way into presentations, which is always fun!
It was a busy week with a lot of information to absorb and a lot of old and new acquaintances and friends to talk to. We used this opportunity to spread the word about our current projects, and especially to discuss the challenges and potential of barcoding marine invertebrates.
We are very grateful to the organizing committee for taking on the herculean task of setting up such a wonderful symposium!
Meet Ampharete undecima, a new species of polychaete (bristle worm) that we recently described:
The species has been decribed based on material collected by the University of Bergen in the Nordic Seas in the 80s, and from samples collected by MAREANO in more recent years. It occurs in deep waters between 600 and 1650 meters depth, and has a broad distribution. The type specimen of the species is from a location that MAREANO sampled in 2009.
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.
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!