Category Archives: PolyNor

Fieldwork with the SponGES project on R/V Kristine Bonnevie

20170428_143104

Greetings from the big, old blue!

We don’t have much internet out here, so updates will be sporadic – but here’s the tale of the first half of the two cruises that the Invertebrate Collections people have stowed away on this spring. The current cruise is part of the SponGES-project that is being coordinated by the University of Bergen, Norway (prof. Hans Tore Rapp).

We are currently midway in the six-day cruise (26th of April to 2nd of May), and are presently to be found at 59°63,000 N, 04°42,000 E – there are mountains on one horizon, and open ocean on the other. After a night of muddy (clay-y) sampling, the majority of us are relaxing and eagerly awaiting lunch, whilst some of the sponge-folks are huddled inside the big, blue container on the deck, surveying the sea floor with the ROV Aglantha (occasionally cherry-picking sponges with fancy scoops).

The ROV Aglantha, inside the Blue Box, and sponge-capturing device

The ROV Aglantha, inside the Blue Box, and sponge-capturing device

At present we are at station #33; it has been three busy days so far! This is the first trip for all of us on the “new” R/V Kristine Bonnevie (formerly known as “Dr. Fritjof Nansen”, but that name has passed on to the new Nansen vessel), and we’re thoroughly enjoying it. The crew is amazing, the food is delicious, and the samples keep coming – what’s not to like? Even the weather has been good to us most of the time – though we have sprouted quite a crop of anti-seasickness patches onboard by now!

#bestoffice

#bestoffice

We had to take a break to admire this

We had to take a break to admire this

Shenanigans on deck

Shenanigans on deck

In addition to the ROV, we are using van Veen grabs, Agassiz trawl, plankton net, and RP-sledge to collect fauna. We also stumbled across hundreds of meters of lost fishing line when diving with Aglantha – the operators were able to catch an end of it, and it was dragged onboard to be discarded properly. The rope was heavily colonized by sponges, hydrozoa and mussels, so we got a “bonus sample” from that – and we got to clear away some marine pollution. Win/win!

Old Fishing line being removed - and samples taken from it!

Old Fishing line being removed – and samples taken from it!

My main incentive for being onboard is to secure ethanol-fixed (=suitable for DNA work) material from locations that we have either none or only formaldehyde fixed. This will then become part of the museum collections – and we will have fresh material for DNA barcoding through NorBOL.

Ready to dive in!

Ready to dive in!

The art of washing grab samples - get rid of the mud, keep the animals intact!

The art of washing grab samples – get rid of the mud, keep the animals intact!

Scooping up top sediment from grabs for analyses

Scooping up top sediment from grabs for analyses

Incoming trawl

Incoming trawl

Sampling in the sunset

Sampling in the sunset

The samples we are collecting are gently and carefully treated on deck before being bulk (i.e. unsorted) fixated in ethanol. There is lab space onboard, but we don’t have the time to do much sorting here. It will be exciting to see what we find once we get back to the lab and begin sorting it!

Lab facilities onboard

Lab facilities onboard

But before we get to that, we have three more days with SponGES, and then we go on to the next cruise, which will also be with Bonnevie – this time we’re heading up and into the Sognefjord.

Stay tuned for updates!

-Katrine

ps: SponGES’ facebook page is here

Door #23: How far away can a quill worm get?

Hyalinoecia tubicola from the North Sea (by K. Kongshavn).

Hyalinoecia tubicola from the North Sea (by K. Kongshavn).

Quill worms belong to the annelid family Onuphidae and are called like that because of their unique tubes. The tubes are secreted by their inhabitants and are very light and rigid, resembling a quill, the basal part of a bird’s feather used for writing. Quill worms are epibenthic creatures capable of crawling on the surface of the sea floor carrying their tubes along. Their anterior feet are modified, strengthened and enlarged, bearing thick and stout bristles. These anterior feet are used for locomotion.

Quill worms are widely distributed in the ocean inhabiting mostly slope depths down to 2000 m. Being large in body size (up to 10-20 cm long), they can be quite abundant in some areas. Meyer et al. (2016) reported Hyalinoecia artifex reaching up to 70 ind./m2 in the Baltimore Canyon at 400 m water depth. Another quill worm, H. tubicola, which is very common in Norwegian waters, reached up to 272 ind./m2 at 365 m offshore of Chesapeake Bay (Wigley & Emery 1967).

Quill worms are believed to be motile scavengers. Baited monster camera experiments performed at 2000 m deep site in Baja California demonstrated that Hyalinoecia worms can accumulate in hundreds of specimens five hours after the bait (rotten fish) has been deployed (Dayton & Hessler 1972). Myer et al. (2016) analyzed the stable isotope content in Hyalinoecia artifex tissues confirming its secondary consumer status. Their results supported earlier observations on the gut content of the same species by Gaston (1987) showing the presence of the remains of various benthic invertebrates.

Video 1. Quill worm Hyalinoecia tubicola moving inside its tube (by K. Kongshavn).

 

Video 2. Quill worm Hyalinoecia tubicola protruding from the tube opening. Three antennae and a pair of palps are seen on the head. The first two pairs of feet are enlarged and strengthened (by K. Kongshavn).

 


Dayton, P.K., Hessler, R.R., 1972. Role of biological disturbance in maintaining diversity in the deep sea. Deep-Sea Research 19: 199–208.

Meyer, K.S., Wagner, J.K.S., Ball, B., Turner, P.J., Young, C.M., Van Dover, C.L. 2016. Hyalinoecia artifex: Field notes on a charismatic and abundant epifaunal polychaete on the US Atlantic continental margin. Invertebrate Biology 135: 211–224. doi:10.1111/ivb.12132

Gaston, G.R. 1987. Benthic polychaeta of the Middle Atlantic Bight: feeding and distribution. Marine Ecology Progress Series 36: 251–262.

Wigley, R.L., Emery, K.O. 1967. Benthic animals, particularly Hyalinoecia (Annelida) and Ophiomusium (Echinodermata), in sea-bottom photographs from the continental slope. In: Deep-Sea Photography. Hersey JB, ed., pp. 235–250. John Hopkins Press, Baltimore.

-Nataliya

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”

cover

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:

gunneri

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 # 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 #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

 

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!

Sletvik_collage

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!

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!

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 #23: Of MAREANO and the Museum

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.

book mareanoMAREANO 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.

Workshop on the MAREANO-sponges

Workshop on the MAREANO-sponges

From a workshop on Cumacean Crustacea collected by MAREANO - it was late in December,so of course we had to make gingerbread critters

From a workshop on Cumacea (Crustacea) collected by MAREANO – it was late in December, so of course we had to make gingerbread critters (that could be identified to genus or species level..!)

Snaphshot from one of the workshops during the porject Polychaete diversity in Norwegian Waters (PolyNor)

Snaphshot from one of the workshops during the project “Polychaete diversity in Norwegian Waters” (PolyNor), which has been working a lot on MAREANO-collected material

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:

mareano_whatgoeswhere

IMR = Institute of Marine Research (Havforskningsinstituttet)

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!

Three (!) pallets of material

Pallets of material

Buckets and buckets with sediment and animals

Buckets and buckets with sediment and animals

Filling up the car with precious cargo

Filling up the car with precious cargo

Sorting the bulk fractions by station until we process them

Sorting the bulk fractions by station until we process them

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.

Sorting identified polychaete samples to family before storage

Sorting identified polychaete samples to family before storage

Guest researchers come to work on the material, here is Julio from Spain, who examined bristle worms from the family Oweniidae

Guest researchers come to work on the material, here is Julio from Spain, who examined bristle worms from the family Oweniidae

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.

Ampharete undecima. One of the tools used when describing a new species is the electron microscope, which allows us to take very detailed photographs of the animals. Photo: K. Kongshavn

Ampharete undecima. Photo: K. Kongshavn

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!

References:

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)

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