Category Archives: NorBOL

Plastic: The true junk food of the oceans

A whale recently had to be put down by wildlife management after it had repeatedly beached itself on the island of Sotra outside of Bergen. It was found to be a Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris), a species with apparently no official previous records from Norway. The University Museum of Bergen therefore wished to include the whale skeleton in its collections (and future exhibitions, once the remodelling completes).

Arriving at Espegrend

Arriving at Espegrend

The whale was transported to the Marine Biological Station of Espegrend, and a team of five people from the museum set to work collecting measurements of the whale, taking tissue samples for DNA-barcoding though the NorBOL-project, collecting ectoparasites, and doing photo-documentation.

Collecting measurements

Collecting measurements

We then began removing the blubber and muscle tissue off the whale so that the bones can be further treated (they contain a lot of oil which needs to be taken care of once the soft tissue has been removed), before the skeleton can be mounted for display.

Starting the work of removing blubber and muscles

Starting the work of removing blubber and muscles

Little did we know that what had so far been a local news matter would soon go viral…

Sadly, it became clear during the autopsy that the whale had been ingesting massive amounts of plastic – as much as 30 plastic bags, and many smaller pieces of plastic. The whale was emaciated, and we believe that the plastic had gathered in such an amount in its stomach that it had created a plug, stopping the digestive process.

The plastic and and from the whale stomach

The plastic in and from the whale stomach (photos: T. Lislevand, H.Glenner/C.Noever)

The images of all the plastic spread out on the ground became a potent reminder of the tragedies that marine pollution is creating, and has sparked a renewed debate on how we can limit the amount of micro- and macro-plastic that end up in nature.

The news of the whale's stomach content became international news

The news of the whale’s stomach content became international news

What should the Cuvier’s beaked whale have been eating?

Occurring as solitary animals or in small pods, and preferring the deeper open waters, the Cuvier’s beaked whale is not an easy animal to study. We do know that the species have a more or less cosmopolitan distribution, and that it holds the world record for longest and deepest dive for any mammal: one was recorded diving down to 3000 meters.

What data we do have on the species diet comes from beached individuals, and suggests that the species may be a fairly omnivorous predator. From the limited number of Cuvier’s beaked whales that have been examined for stomach content, there are regional differences in the diet, but it seems to consist mainly of cephalopods (squid and octopuses), deep sea fish, and medium sized crustaceans (Santos og andre 2001).

Above are the suckers on the arm of a giant squid, Architeuthis. Below are scars on the skin of a sperm whale. Photo: E.Willassen

Above are the suckers on the arm of a giant squid, Architeuthis. Below are scars on the skin of a sperm whale. Photo: E.Willassen

The cephalopods appear to be the dominant food source, but this interpretation may be influenced by the longevity of the hard parts of a cephalopod in the stomach.

The tough beaks of a cephalopod consist of chitin, and is used for tearing prey to pieces. Chitin is also found in the suckers of many cephalopods. The beaks can be used to identify the cephalod groups based on their size and shapes.  Animals such as jellyfish would be much harder to document as part of the diet, as they would be digested much more rapidly and completely.

We don’t know how well resolved the information produced by the animal’s echo-location is, but it is conceivable that the plastic reflects signals in a way similar to the natural food of the whale, and is therefore “caught” and eaten.

Cephalopod beak, drawing by J.H. Emerton from Wikimedia commons

Cephalopod beak, drawing by J.H. Emerton (from Wikimedia commons)

We did find some cephalopod beaks in between the plastic in the whale stomach – so far we have not had the time to attempt to identify these, but we will.

Amngst the plastic there are some cephalopod beaks and a bivalve shell. Photo: C. Noever

Amongst the plastic there are some cephalopod beaks (dark brown) and a bivalve shell (top left). Photo: C. Noever

The University Museum have extensive cephalopod collections, and long traditions for working with this group – from Dr. Jakob Johan Adolf Appellöf who began working here in 1890, to the material collected in the MAR-ECO project.

MAR-ECO workshop on cephalopoda

MAR-ECO workshop on cephalopoda

From the work of  Santos et al 2001 we know that the following species are in the diet of European Curvier’s beaked whales, and are probably amongst the things our whale should have been eating:

Tewuthowenia megalops. Photo: Richard E. Young during MAR-ECO-cruise 2004.

Tewuthowenia megalops. Photo: Richard E. Young during MAR-ECO-cruise 2004.

Teuthowenia megalops is an odd squid that floats around in the open water with a propulsion system based on ammoniumchloride that the animal produces by digesting protein. The name “megalops” hints to the huge eyes, which also contain three light producing organs (chromatophores). The species seems to be common in deep water in the north Atlantic (Vecchione et al. 2008). For more information, see Wikipedia.



Mastigoteuthis agassizi


Mastigoteuthis agassizii was originally registered in whale stomachs as Mastigoteuthis schmidti, but from the work on the MAR-ECO project, three species of Mastigoteuthis were considered to all be M. agassizii. Some ambiguity remains about the species of this genus of oceanic squid with a broad distribution in the world’s oceans in depths ranging from 500 to 1000 meters. They have diurnal migration, and may be found hunting closer to the surface at night.  




Taonius pavo. Illustration from Wikipedia.

Taonius pavo seen ventrally (above) and dorsally. Illustration from Wikipedia.

Taonius pavo 

This little squid is not very well known. It has been recorded from the Atlantic Ocean, but it may have a broader distribution. In this link you will find a video from the Bahamas at 850 m depth where the animal releases bio- luminescent “ink” to confuse a predator and escape.


Histioteuthis bonelli Photographed by Richard E.Youngduring the Mar-Eco-cruises in 2004

Histioteuthis bonelli Photographed by Richard E.Young during the Mar-Eco-cruises in 2004

Histioteuthis bonelli by Ernst Haeckel.

Histioteuthis bonelli, drawing by Ernst Haeckel.


Histioteuthis bonnellii has several names in English, one of which is “umbrella squid”. The name is due to the skirt-like membrane between the arms – when it splays its arms it resembles an umbrella. We don’t know much about the biology of H. bonellii, except  that it has several close relatives in the world oceans, and that what has hitherto been considered one species (H. bonellii) may well turn out to be several species.



Todarodes sagittatus

Todarodes sagittatus


Todarodes sagittatus, the European flying squid, is one of the ten-armed cephalopods that may irregularly occur in schools along the Norwegian coast. T. sagittatus is subject to fisheries.






Vampyroteuthis infernalis

Vampyroteuthis infernalis  – the vampire squid is a deep-sea squid with eight arms and a skirt-like mantle between its arms. It also has moveable wings on its body that it can use to manoeuvre with. The name “vampire squid” is not quite true – this is no blood sucker, but it traps organic material from the water masses using long, sticky threads. If threatened, it can invert the “skirt” over its head, resembling a hedgehog. It also has light producing organs towards the back of the body, and can create clouds of bioluminescence. Even with all these defences, it may end up in the stomach of a Cuvier’s beaked whale.

Below are a couple of videos of  V. infernalis:

youtube 1 (same as above)
youtube 2
youtube 3
youtube 4

Other prey

Pelagic crustaceans and deep sea fish are also amongst the recorded prey from Cuvier’s beaked whales. Amongst these we find the fairly large and shrimplike Gnathophausia, found within the order Lophogastrida, which has been studied extensively at the University of Bergen. We also found a bivalve shell in the stomach of our whale, which as far as we are aware of has not been recorded as part of their diet previously.

Plastic or food?

It may seem strange that the whale should ingest large amounts of plastic – why would it do that? If the whale primarily finds its pray by echolocation in the pitch black of the deep sea, it may well be that it is unable to differentiate between the reflected signal from a sheet of plastic, and that from one of its usual prey animals.

Unlike the sperm whales that hunt cephalopods in a similar way, the beaked does not have teeth to grab its pray. Instead they use a suction to ingest the food. Perhaps it is this feeding mode that becomes very unfortunate for the whales in a natural environment with an incredible amount of human garbage.

-EW & Katrine

Door #20: Pretty Phyllodocidae

Today we present two more of Arne Nygrens gorgeous photos, that he made during our week in the field in Sletvik (central Norway). The subjects in both of these are polychaetes from the family Phyllodocidae, the paddleworms.

First up is a stunning Phyllodoce citrina collected from shell sand at about 60 m depth. The animal is approximately 6 cm long.

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

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

The next one, Paranaitis sp. n.  is actually a new species for science, which came as a pleasant surprise. This is a fairly well-studied group, and the locality Galgenes is one that has been sampled regularly – yet there it was! It is rather unusual to find species where one can so immediately recognize that they are something new; usually we need many specimens, and a combination of detailed studies of morphology and genetic work – but this one is possible to distinguish straight from morphology, as it was lacking eyes.  The specimen is about 1.5 cm long.

Paranaitis n sp Photo by Arne Nygren CC-BY-SA

Paranaitis n sp Photo by Arne Nygren CC-BY-SA

-Arne & Katrine

Door #19: Going back to the roots

Last year we had a calendar post about the Heart of the Museum – our type collections.

To recap, a species’ type is “…the objective standard of reference for the application of zoological names. When a new species or subspecies is described, the specimen(s) on which the author based his/her description become the type(s) (Article 72.1). In this way names are linked to type specimens, which can be referred to later if there is doubt over the interpretation of that name.

Consequently types are sometimes referred to as “onomatophores” which means name bearers.”

International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (IZN)

The location – sampling site – from which the type specimen is described is known as the type locality.

Michael Sars (image from Wikimedia)

Michael Sars (image from Wikimedia)

As you have probably noticed, polychaetes (bristle worms) are a focus group in our lab, and several species have type localities close by.

The biologist and theologian Michael Sars (1805-1869) lived in the Bergen region for many years.  He was a prolific taxonomist, naming 277 species of marine taxa according to the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS).


Consequently there are quite a few species that have their type locality within easy daytrip-distance by ship for us.

On the hunt with R/V "Hans Brattstrøm"

On the hunt with R/V “Hans Brattstrøm”


One such locality is Glesvær, where Michael Sars described several new species in his work of 1835:  Beskrivelser og Iagttagelser over nogle mærkelige eller nye i Havet ved den Bergenske Kyst levende Dyr af Polypernes, Acalephernes, Radiaternes, Annelidernes og Molluskernes Classer* (“Descriptions and Observations of some strange or new animals found off the coast of Bergen, belonging to the Classes …”).

The polychaete Amphicteis gunneri (Ampharetidae) is one of these species. It was first described by Michael Sars as Amphitrite gunneri (the species name is an homage to Johan Ernst Gunnerus (1718-1773) who was an active scientist within botany and zoology,  as well as the bishop in Trondheim, and one of the founders of Det Kongelige Norske Videnskapers Selskap) in the publication above. Here are his original illustrations of the species:


Amphicteis gunneri by M. Sars (1835)

We have previously submitted several specimens of Amphicteis gunneri for DNA-barcoding through the NorBOL-project – and found that specimens that according to the keys in the literature should all come out nicely as A. gunneri in fact end up in several barcode-based groupings (BINs), meaning that they genetically different from each other. Then we need to unravel which one is the true A. gunneri, and decide what to do with the others. In such cases, material from type localities is invaluable. By sending in specimens identified by resident taxonomists as A. gunneri from the type locality, we hope to figure out which BIN represent A. gunneri, and which represent potentially new species.

We were also able to photograph live specimens showing the nice coloration of this worm. Fixed specimens loose this colour and become uniformly yellow/white (no dots).

Amphicteis gunneri collected at type locality. Photo: K.Kongshavn

Amphicteis gunneri collected at type locality. Photo: K.Kongshavn

*Thanks to the excellent Biodiversity Heritage Library, this publication can be found in full text online, accessible for everyone – go here to see it. The Flickr stream of BHL is also an excellent source of amazing illustrations, you can find that here.

-Tom & Katrine

Door #10: Siphonophores

Today, I thought I’d introduce to you to a cool group of animals that is ubiquitous in the oceans (including the Norwegian seas), but unfamiliar to most people. Siphonophores (“kolonimaneter” in Norwegian) belong to cnidarians, a group that includes corals, anemones, hydroids and jellyfish, and is characterized by the presence of stinging cells used in prey capture. All siphonophores are predatory, and use their stinging tentacles to catch small crustaceans or, in the case of some species, even small fish.

The most (or only) familiar siphonophore for the majority of people is probably the highly venomous Portuguese Man O’War (Physalia physalis), which can be spotted floating on the surface of the ocean or stranded on beaches. However, it is not really representative of the group as a whole, as most siphonophores live in the water column of the open ocean rather than its surface. There are around 200 described species of siphonophores.

The most fascinating feature of siphonophores is their peculiar body plan. While siphonophores may appear to be a single animal, they are in fact a colony of physiologically connected and genetically identical but morphologically diverse individuals called zooids that have specialized to carry out different tasks for the colony. Siphonophores belong to the class Hydrozoa (“polyppdyr” in Norwegian), which covers two basic body plans: the polyp/hydroid and the medusa.

Schematic of a physonect siphonophore. From (CC-by-nc-sa)

Schematic of a physonect siphonophore. From (CC-by-nc-sa)

The various zooids comprising a siphonophore colony can also be divided into these main groups. For example, the zooids used for swimming, called nectophores, are medusoid, while the feeding zooids, or gastrozooids, are polyp-like. The siphonophore colony can also include specialized defensive, protective and reproductive zooids. All the zooids forming a colony arise by budding from a single fertilized egg. The different zooids are specialized to the degree that they cannot function as individual animals any more, and are only able to perform their specific tasks as parts of the siphonophore colony.

Anterior nectophore, posterior nectophore and eudoxid of the calycophoran siphonophore Dimophyes arctica – a common species in Norwegian waters. Photos by Aino Hosia (cc-by-sa)

Anterior nectophore, posterior nectophore and eudoxid of the calycophoran siphonophore Dimophyes arctica – a common species in Norwegian waters. Photos by Aino Hosia (cc-by-sa)

The zooids, for example the swimming nectophores, vary in appearance between species, and can be used for species identification. In addition, the various types of zooids in the colony are arranged in a strict species specific pattern, providing the intact colonies of each species with their particular appearance. While the individual zooids are generally small, millimeters to centimeters in size, some siphonophore species, like Praya dubia, may have colonies that reach 40 m in length! Siphonophore colonies generally have a zone of one or more (up to several dozen) swimming nectophores at the front, used to pull the colony through water. Behind this nectosome is the siphosome, which contains the feeding, reproductive and other zooids in a repeating pattern, each iteration of which is called a cormidium. In some species (suborder Calycophorae), these cormidia are released as small free-living reproductive colonies called eudoxids. Unfortunately, siphonophore colonies are extremely fragile and tend to fall apart during standard plankton sampling with nets, leaving behind a bewildering array of small bits and pieces – part of the reason they are relatively poorly known to most people.

Colony of physonect siphonophore Physophora hydrostatica, aka hula skirt siphonophore. Photo by Aino Hosia (cc-by-sa)

Colony of physonect siphonophore Physophora hydrostatica, aka hula skirt siphonophore. Photo by Aino Hosia (cc-by-sa)

Intact siphonophore colonies are beautiful, but often utterly alien in appearance. It is interesting to consider where to draw the line between an individual and a colony. While we as individuals have specialized organs to carry out our various bodily functions, siphonophore colonies are made up of specialized interdependent individuals or zooids similarly carrying out their specific tasks.

As part of project HYPNO we are charting the diversity of pelagic hydrozoans, including siphonophores, in Norway. There are ~15 species observed in Norwegian waters, and some, particularly Dimophyes arctica, Lensia conoidea and Nanomia sp. are extremely common components of marine plankton. However, siphonophores are primarily noticed when they become a nuisance: For example, mass occurrences of Muggiaea atlantica and Apolemia uvaria have in the past killed large numbers of farmed fish in Norway, with resulting losses to aquaculture companies.

– Aino (HYPNO)

Intrigued by siphonophores? For more information, visit e.g.  by Casey Dunn.

Door # 6: Stuffed Syllid

Todays calendar critter is a Trypanosyllis sp. – a undescribed species from the genera Trypanosyllis in the family Syllidae. It most closely resembles a species described from the Mediterranean Sea. The Norwegian species is common in coral rubble, and has been assumed to be the same species as the one described from the Mediterranean. Genetic work reveals that these two are in fact separate species, and thus the Norwegian one is a new species awaiting formal description and naming. (If you read Norwegian, you can learn more about how species are described and named here: Slik gir vi navn til nye arter).

A new species of Trypanosyllis, collected in Sletvik, Norway. Photo by Arne Nygren. CC-by-sa

A new species of Trypanosyllis, collected in Sletvik, Norway. Photo by Arne Nygren. CC-by-sa

This specimen was collected, identified and photographed by Arne Nygren during our field work in Sletvik as part of his work on cryptic polychate species in Norway.

Syllids have opted for a rather fascinating way of ensuring high fertilization rates; something called epitoky: they asexually produce a special individual – the epitokous individual – from their bodies, and release this to go swimming in search of a mate. In the photo you can see that the female reproductive body (epitoke) is filled with orange eggs and has its own set of eyes, close to the middle of the animal. This section will break away from the mother animal and swim away in search of a male reproductive body to reproduce with. The mother animal will then grow a new female reproductive body.

-Arne & Katrine

Door #4: A spindly Sunday

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:

Colossendeis angusta, collected by MAREANO - this is bigger than a handful

Colossendeis angusta, collected by MAREANO – this is bigger than a handful

Ammothea echinata from the day when we joined the local student dive club - the animal is only a few mm

Ammothea echinata from the day when we joined the local student dive club – the animal is only a few mm

Anatomy of a pycnogonid: A: head; B: thorax; C: abdomen 1: proboscis; 2: chelifores; 3: palps; 4: ovigers; 5: egg sacs; 6a–6d: four pairs of legs Sars, G. O. (1895). An account of the Crustacea of Norway, with short descriptions and figures of all the species. Christiania, Copenhagen, A. Cammermeyer. L. Fdez (LP) – digitization and colouration. - Own work External anatomy of Nymphon sea spider. After G. O. Sars (1895).

Anatomy of a pycnogonid: A: head; B: thorax; C: abdomen 1: proboscis; 2: chelifores; 3: palps; 4: ovigers; 5: egg sacs; 6a–6d: four pairs of legs  L. Fdez (LP) – digitization and colouration. – Own work based on External anatomy of Nymphon sea spider. After G. O. Sars (1895).

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  Checked: verified by a taxonomic editorAnimalia (Kingdom) > Checked: verified by a taxonomic editorArthropoda (Phylum) > Checked: verified by a taxonomic editorChelicerata (Subphylum) > Checked: verified by a taxonomic editorPycnogonida (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!

Goofy looking Nymphon stroemi (note the cheliphores/claws)

Goofy looking Nymphon stroemi (note the chelipores/claws) and the eyes on a tubercle on the head – they have eyes facing both forwards and backwards

Pycnogonum litorale

Pycnogonum litorale

Some species, like this Nymphon gracile, can also swim: "...the swimming motions are the same as those used in walking, but more vigorously executed" King 1974

Some species, like this Nymphon gracile, can also swim: “…the swimming motions are the same as those used in walking, but more vigorously executed” King 1974

Nymphon hirtipes with hitchikers

Nymphon hirtipes with hitchikers


Pseudopallene circularis from Spitsbergen

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!

Pseudopallene longicollis, collected by MAREANO

Pseudopallene longicollis, collected by MAREANO

King, P.E. 1974: British Sea Spiders, synopses of the British Fauna (New Series) No. 5

Door #3: a week in the field

We spent a lovely week in October collecting animals at the field station of NTNU in Agdenes in central Norway.

About 15 researchers and collection curators were gathered for a week of sampling with gear ranging from grabs and trawls deployed from the research vessel Gunnerus to buckets and shovels on the beach. As you may be able to tell, a good time was had by all!


The field work was arranged by the our colleagues at NTNU University Museum, and served multiple purposes:

  • We collected ultra-fresh material for barcoding through the norwegian Barcode of Live project (NorBOL) – several plates were initiated during the week and then brought back to Bergen where we will continue filling them with material from our collections – each plate needs to be filled with 95 samples that can be run with the same primer, so we need to select our material carefully.
  • The marine collections of NTNU got a substantial boost
  • Fresh material was collected for teaching faunistics
  • Photodocumenting live specimens (we have some fantastic polychaete photos from this coming up later in our calendar)
  • Four Norwegian Species Initiative funded projects were participating, collecting material for their projects – as were people from the EU-project SponGES.
  • We at UM also relished the chance to sample in the littoral zone, which is a undersampled habitat in our collections

We are working on the material now, and some of it is scheduled to make an apperance on the blog over the next couple of weeks – so stay tuned!

Door #2: The head of the Medusa


Medusa by Carvaggio (Wikimedia)

Today we go mythological, and visit the Greek pantheon.

Medusa was one of three Gorgon sisters who all had snakes for hair according to the mythology – and one can certainly understand how the British zoologist Leach (1791-1836) came to think of the name when he formally described the genus Gorgonocephalus (Literally ” Gorgon’s head”) in 1815. They are found within the echinoderm class of Ophiuroidea (brittle stars).

In English they are known as basket stars, whilst Norwegians know them as “Medusahode” – head of the Medusa.

The English name refers to how they feed: basket stars are predators, and raise their bifurcated arms covered with tiny hooks, spines and grooves up into the current forming a basket to sift and entrap plankton and other small critters from the water as it streams past – then they use their arm branches (possibly aided by the tube feet) to guide the trapped food to their mouths, which is on the underside (like in starfish).

Gorgonocephalus lamarcki, photo by K.Kongshavn

Gorgonocephalus lamarcki, photo by K.Kongshavn


This specimen was collected in Svalbard in 2009 (way up at 80ºN) during a student course at UNIS, and has been barcoded through the Norwegian Barcode of Life (NorBOL) project.


Hover your cursor over the image below to see a basket star move


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!


  • 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.


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!

Seaweeds continued

An alternate world?

An alternate world?

The week flew by in a flurry of Latin names, literature and sea water – today is the day for unpacking, making sure that everything is stored safely, and revising lists.

An impressive collection of species on the final day!

An impressive collection of species on the final day!

A voucher, ready to be pressed.

A voucher, neatly laid out and ready to be pressed.

Pressing voucher specimens

Pressing voucher specimens

Tissue samples

Tissue samples

In total we collected 88 samples of 76 different species, most of which are not in the BOLD database for Norway yet. It will be exciting to see what results we get!

The tissue samples will be sent to the Saunders lab, as they have kindly offered collaborate on this collection and help us with the sequencing as our go-to lab in NorBOL is not optimally set up to deal with algae.

Thank you so much to all the students and teachers for being so welcoming, and for being good sports about me spiriting away your specimens!