Category Archives: Marine Biodiversity of West Africa

Full house!

Busy workers

Busy workers

The lab is teeming with guest researchers these days, as we have these three lovely polychaetologists visiting to work on the MIWA (Marine Invertebrates of Western Africa)-material.

From the left we have Kate from Wales, Lloyd from Ghana, and Polina from Russia

From the left we have Kate from Wales, Lloyd from Ghana, and Polina from Russia

Kate is working on the polychete family Magelonidae, and has written a blog post about her stay. Lloyd is working on the families Glyceridae and Goniadidae, and Polina is doing her MSc thesis on the Lumbrineridae. You can find short project descriptions of these (and many of our other) polychate projects here.

Makes sure to check by our MIWA-blog for more updates in the time to come!

Door #17: New master student

Polina

Polina

Polina Borisova, a first year master student from the Zoological Department of the Moscow State University (Russia), is coming to the Invertebrate Collections of the University Museum of Bergen with a 1-month research visit in January 2017.

Polina is going to work on the bristle worms from the family Lumbrineridae studying the collection from West Africa and Norway. Her project is jointly supervised by Dr. Nataliya Budaeva from the University Museum of Bergen and Dr. Alexander Tzetlin from the Moscow University.

Various Lumbrineridae from West Africa, scale 1 mm (Photos from BOLD).

Various Lumbrineridae from West Africa, scale 1 mm (Photos from BOLD).

Lumbrineridae are the worms with relatively poor external morphology but complex jaw apparatus. The structure of jaws has been traditionally used in the systematics of the family in the generic diagnoses. Polina is utilizing the methods of microCT to study the jaws of lumbrinerids in 3D.

Jaws of Scoletoma fragilis from the White Sea scanned using microCT showing ventral solid mandibles, forceps-like maxillae I and denticulate maxillae II and II, carriers of maxillae are omitted (Photo: P. Borisova)

Jaws of Scoletoma fragilis from the White Sea scanned using microCT showing ventral solid mandibles, forceps-like maxillae I and denticulate maxillae II and II, carriers of maxillae are omitted (Photo: P. Borisova)

Polina is also going to sequence several genetic markers to reconstruct the first molecular phylogeny of the family. This will allow testing the current hypothesis on the intergeneric relationships within Lumbrineridae and will aid in tracing the evolution of jaws within the family.

-Nataliya & Polina

Door #5: A visit from Mario

The collections have many guest researchers come here to work on our material, and one of our most frequent guests of lately has been Mario, who makes the long trip from Colombia to study both the West African material that we have from the MIWA-project, and to work on Nordic material. We asked him to make a contribution to the blog, and got the folllowing:

Mario in the Lab

Mario in the lab

For October – November visit.

For my third time in the Museum, I have found, as always, very good company from my colleagues in the lab: Katrine, Nataliya, Jon and Tom. Deep morphology and molecular method discussions over very good coffee were the “breaks” between periods of hard work at the microscope.

This time, I take to my home two papers close to completion; one about species of the genus Pista (Terebellidae) with additional information to what I found during my last visit in January. The second paper is about species in the subfamily Polycirrinae (Terebellide) from the West coast of Africa.

The idea is combine drawings, digital photos of specimens with methyl-green staining pattern and SEM pictures, as well as molecular information that will hopefully help us separate species and make better estimates of the region’s biodiversity.

Field work - somewhat cold and windy

Field work – somewhat cold and windy

 

The visit – which was without snow and with only a few showers of rain in Bergen (!), though with some very cold and windy moments at the Marine Station of the University of Trondheim – and sharing time with recognized polychaetologist as Fred Pleijel, Torkild Bakken, Eivind Oug, and Arne Nygren, was as spectacular as to know the Aurora Borealis.

Aurora borealis and a hooded tropical visitor. Photo: K.Kongshavn

Aurora borealis and a (hooded) tropical visitor. Photo: K.Kongshavn

 

High(er) species diversity of Glyceriformia

goniadidae figHappy WormWednesday*!

One of our contributions at the International Polychaete Conference in Cardiff was a poster that dealt with how a combination of careful morphological examinations using the available literature and DNA barcoding of polychaetes in the families Glyceridae and Goniadidae from the West coast of Africa is indicating a much higher diversity than we can assign names to at the moment.

Head on over to our MIWA (Marine Invertebrates of Western Africa) blog to see the poster and learn more!

*that is an actual hashtag on Twitter – check it out!

A week of worms in Wales!

Does that not sound appealing?
It was actually a lovely event!

The IPC2016 logo © National Museum Wales

The IPC2016 logo © National Museum Wales

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.

 

 

Polychaetologists assembled on the steps of the National Museum Cardiff (c) IPC2016

Polychaetologists anno 2016 assembled on the steps of the National Museum Cardiff © National Museum Wales

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.

Snapshots of Cardiff

Snapshots of Cardiff (photos: K.Kongshavn)

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.

Norwegian delegates lining up in the City Hall before the start of the banquet

Norwegian delegates lining up in the City Hall before the start of the banquet

As Torkild said in his excellent blog post (in Norwegian, translation by me):

Pins marking where participants come from - this was not quite completed when the photo was taken, but none the less - we beat Sweden!

Pins marking where participants come from – this was not quite completed when the photo was taken, but none the less..well represented!

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.

From the poster session - these are some (!) of the posters we were involved in

From the poster session – these are some (!) of the posters we were involved in (photos: K.Kongshavn)

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!

Presentations:

  • 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

Posters

  • 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.

castle

Caerphilly Castle (photo: K.Kongshavn)

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,[2] 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!

Visiting the "Wriggle!" exhibition during the Ice Breaker event

Visiting the “Wriggle!” exhibition during the Ice Breaker event

The attendants have also been busy on Twitter, visit @IPC2016 or check #IPC12Cardiff for loads of photos and on-the-spot-commentaries

Finally, we would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to the arranging committeeDIOLCH!

Cheers, Katrine

ps: Dw i’n hoffi mwydod!

My, what big teeth you have!

If not big, then certainly many!

Pictured is a Goniada multidentata (you guessed it, “many toothed”!), photographed in a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM). The lower photo has been coloured afterwards to better show the placement of the teeth.

Don’t worry though, the whole animal is only a few millimetre long, so you are not on its menu!

The species was first described in the yearbook of Bergen Museum (now the University Museum of Bergen) in Arwidsson, Ivar. (1899). Studien über die Familien Glyceridae und Goniadidae. Bergens Museums Aarbog. 1898(11): 1-69, plates I-IV., which is available online at http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/130141#page/257/mode/1up

Goniada multidentataThis specimen was collected by the R/V “Dr. Fridtjof Nansen” and has been identified as part of our MIWA – Marine Invertebrates of Western Africa – project. We’re working on a poster on the diversity of Glyceridae and Goniadidae of the region that will be presented at the 12th International Polychaete Conference in Wales this summer.

Guest researchers: Mario

We started early with visitors for 2016; Mario arrived already on the 4th of January!

Mario, on his temporary spot in the lab, studying spaghetti worms.

Mario, on his temporary spot in the lab, studying spaghetti worms.

 

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.

 

 

 

Arne

Arne

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).

Pista cristata identified by Dr. T. Holthe, one of the most important experts on spaghetti worms, from University of Bergen. RCP. Photo: MHL

Pista cristata identified by Dr. T. Holthe, one of the most important experts on spaghetti worms, from University of Bergen. RCP. Photo: MHL

In his own words:

Eupolymnia nebulosa after one collecting trip to Lysefjord close to Bergen. Photo: MHL

Eupolymnia nebulosa after a collecting trip to Lysefjorden close to Bergen. Photo: MHL

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?

Verticilate chaetae (bristles) from one of the polycirrinae species photographed through a microscope. Photo: MHL

Verticilate chaetae (bristles) from one of the polycirrinae species photographed through a microscope. Photo: MHL

Methyl-green staining pattern of one of Pista species. Photo: MHL

Methyl-green staining pattern of one of Pista species. Photo: MHL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Snowy view from the lab window Photo: MHL

Snowy view from the lab window Photo: MHL

Thank you for visiting, it was very nice having you here – we wish you the best of luck with your next adventure in Antarctica!

Door #19: The amphipods with the pointed hoods

Unravelling the mysteries of Amphipods

Unravelling the mysteries of Amphipods

This last week Ania and Anne Helene have been filling the lab with details about antennae, epimeral plates and hairs (setae) on all appendages imaginable and unimaginable. The first dive into the west-African amphipods has been made, and we chose to focus on a family that is easily distinguished from the rest of the amphipoda: the Phoxocephalidae.

This family was first described by G.O. Sars in 1891, and in the northern Atlantic it is a friendly group to examine – it does not have too many species. On a world-basis, however, there are 369 species of Phoxocephalide described, within 80 genera (as of dec 14 2015). The whole groups is easily recognized by their “pointed hoods” – the head is drawn forwards just like a hood that is pulled as far to the front as it goes.

 

Ania has much of her previous experience from the Antarctic and Anne Helene has worked in the Arctic, so west-African waters seemed a good place to meet – if not literally then thematically. Being physically in the same lab is probably the best way to collaborate on examining small animals, and we had a week of long and happy days in the lab.

A Basuto stimpsoni from Guinea Bissau. Photo A.H. Tandberg

A Basuto stimpsoni from Guinea Bissau. Photo A.H. Tandberg

Why did we think the Phoxocephalidae would be a good starting point for examining the amphipod-fauna of the West-African waters? There were moments during the last week we asked ourselves this question. There are some reasons, though. To be able to identify species of amphipods you normally have to examine a collection of characters such as the antennae, sections of the different legs (Amphipods do have a lot of legs!) and the different sideplates (for example the epimeral plates).

In difference with many other amphipod groups the Phoxocephalids do not have a lot of appendages that are sticking far out of the main body, so there are not so many pieces that break off ethanol-preserved specimens – and that gives us a bit easier job.

But there are not many studies of the smaller crustaceans from these waters previously, so we were not expecting to be able to put names on much of what we were looking at. This prediction proved true – we have found one already named species (Basuto stimpsoni Stebbing, 1908) in all our samples. In addition to this we have found what we think are 27 other species – but we do not have a name for most of them. For many we don´t even have a genus name.

How will we continue with this group? The first step is to see if our 28 putative species really are different – for this we will first map their DNA barcode (COI). Depending on what results this gives us, we will be able to see how many new species we end up with.

There is definitely more to come from this study, and we promise to write about it when we know more (that will, however, not be in this advent calendar)…

-Ania and Anne Helene

Door #9: Delving into the DNA

From the pre-PCR lab

From the pre-PCR lab

The four PCR-machines lined up

The four PCR-machines lined up

We are very fortunate in that we have a modern DNA lab available «just down the street» from us, as the University Museum is part of the shared Biodiversity laboratories (BDL) structure.

The BDL is a formalized cooperation between three research groups at Dept. of Biology (Marine biodiversity, Geomicrobiology and the EECRG), and two of the research groups at the University Museum. One of the senior engineers if this lab is a Museum employee, and from time to time we are also able to hire in other collaborators for specific projects.

 

 

 

Pipetting

Pipetting samples onto one of the plates that we fill with DNA-extracts

 

For the past couple of months we’ve had a technician – Morten – working on resolving some of the challenges that we run into when we work on COI barcoding of marine invertebrates.

Unlike many of the other groups that this method works exceedingly well for (like the Diptera), we are experiencing difficulties in obtaining DNA barcodes from a significant proportion of our samples.

IMGP0775-001We are currently focussing particularly on the Polychaeta (bristle worms), as this is the group we have submitted the majority of samples from in both our major barcoding projects: MIWA (Marine Invertebrates of Western Africa) and NorBOL (Norwegian Barcode of Life).

 

Morten has been working on obtaining DNA from the more problematic species, by troubleshooting and tinkering on various aspects of the ways we extract and amplify genes.

Basically there are more or less standardized ways of obtaining DNA, and these methods normally works well. Unfortunately (for various reasons) this is not always the case, and this is where we have to alter the protocols to see if we can find a way to retrieve the sample DNA from the specimens.

So far it looks quite promising; we’ve been able to fill in some of the most important “blanks” in our datasets – and we’re not done yet!

– Morten & Katrine

Door #8: One jar –> many, many vials

Sorting the Crustacean samples from our

Marine Invertebrates of Western Africa Project (MIWA)

Most work is more fun when working together. It also makes for better science to cooperate – and the easiest way to cooperate on taxonomy is to sit at the same lab for some time – to be able to look at the same specimens and see the same details that should be examined. This is the plan for the amphipods from the MIWA-project. Ania Jażdżewska from the University of Łódź in Poland is visiting our lab for an extended week of collaboration with me in a mini-workshop on the amphipod samples.

But before a visitor can come, preparations are necessary. So for the last 6 weeks I have been sorting all the ethanol-samples of our west-african crustaceans into separate orders (isopods, tanaidaceans, cumaceans, decapoda), and the amphipods (also an order) have been sorted to family.

98 samples have been split into 629 smaller vials – ready to be further examined when Ania comes.

We promise a follow-up on what this brings of fun science!

 -Anne Helene