Tag Archives: Field work

Fieldwork with the SponGES project on R/V Kristine Bonnevie – part II

I wanted to write a bit more abou the SponGES cruise, as we are currently entering Sognefjorden on the second spring cruise Luis and I have managed to sign up for (what a job!).

SponGES took us to Korsfjorden, Bømlafjorden, west of Bømlahuken and finally past Fedje and back to Bergen. We ended up with ~70 stations, using grabs, Agassiz trawl, plankton net, RP-sledge and ROV. For the most part the gear performed admirably, though we had some mishaps (and an epic final station, key word being MUD – Anne Helene will have more to say about that one).
The first grab of the new cruise is going down, so I have to be quick; here’s SponGES in pictures (not recorded: lots of laughs and horrible songs)

Door #18: A photosynthetic animal

You may already be confused with the title, but you did read it well! Animals can do photosynthesis and most incredibly some species are more efficient than plants or algae. Yet, this achievement is not for all; you must be special, you must be unique…, you must be a sapsucking slug!

Ercolania sp. feeding inside algae (Photo: M. Malaquias)

Ercolania sp. feeding inside algae (Photo: M. Malaquias)

This is a process named kleptoplasty (= chloroplast symbiosis; see Door #2 of this calendar series) where the slug while feeding from the plant tissue does not digest the chloroplasts but instead migrate these organelles to specific parts of the body where they remain active producing sugars that become available to the slug.

There are two species of sapsucking slugs with a remarkable life-history. The spectacular and rare tropical species Ercolania endophytophaga and E. kencolesi both only known from Australia do not retain chloroplasts as other species do, but they do feed on algae, however, only on a very special kind – the green grape-algae of the Order Siphonocladales. These are syncytial algae made of massive single cell grape-shaped structures which the animal pierce to move in and leave inside until “green-matter” is available.

detail of Ercolania sp. inside algae (Photo: M. Malaquias)

detail of Ercolania sp. inside algae (Photo: M. Malaquias)

I was very fortunate to find one of this slugs back in January 2014 in southern Mozambique. Usually one has to collect a large quantity of algae to carefully search through later on in the lab and hope for the best! However, in that afternoon while sampling in a beautiful shallow tidal tropical reef in Paindane sluggishly looking at a facies of a “grape-alga” growing over a boulder I suddenly notice a tiny animal moving gently inside the algae. I grabbed a few bunches of algae into my sampling jar to look at later on…, and voilà… I was rewarded with a few specimens of one of this spectacular and difficult slugs most probably an undescribed species, the first from the Indian Ocean.

Ercolania sp. after removal from algae (Photo: M. Malaquias)

Ercolania sp. after removal from algae (Photo: M. Malaquias)

-Manuel

Door #16: First molecular-based phylogeny of onuphid bristle worms

Onuphidae are marine bristle worms with very rich external morphology and outstanding diversity of life styles within a single polychaete family. Onuphids can be very abundant in some marine biotopes, modifying the environment by their complex ornamented tubes and influencing the structure of benthic communities. They are very widely spread in the ocean inhabiting various biotopes from the intertidal zone down to hadal depths. Onuphids are widely harvested as bait sustaining local fisheries in southeastern Australia, Mediterranean and Portuguese coasts and are even commercially farmed with the full reproductive cycle from fertilization till fully-grown worms (up to 30 cm in length) in aquaculture facility.

Nothria otsuchiensis - a bristle worm from NSW, Australia (author N. Budaeva)

Nothria otsuchiensis – a bristle worm from NSW, Australia (author N. Budaeva)

The system of Onuphidae with 23 genera grouped into two subfamilies has been suggested by Hannelore Paxton (1986) and has been widely accepted since then. The first phylogeny based on the analysis of the combination of 16S rDNA and 18S rDNA genes has been recently published in Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. None of the subfamilies or tested genera appeared to be para- or polyphyletic showing a strong congruence between the traditional morphology-based systematics of the family and the newly obtained molecular-based phylogenetic reconstruction. However the previously suggested hypotheses on intrageneraic relationships within onuphidae were largely rejected.

Phylogenetic tree of a bristle worm family Onuphidae (Budaeva et al., 2016)

Phylogenetic tree of a bristle worm family Onuphidae (Budaeva et al., 2016)

Suggested reading:

Budaeva N., Schepetov D., Zanol J., Neretina T., Willassen E. 2016. When molecules support morphology: Phylogenetic reconstruction of the family Onuphidae (Eunicida, Annelida) based on 16S rDNA and 18S rDNA. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 94(B): 791–801. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ympev.2015.10.011

Paxton, H., 1986. Generic revision and relationships of the family Onuphidae (Annelida: Polychaeta). Records of the Australian Museum 38, 1–74. http://australianmuseum.net.au/uploads/journals/17658/175_complete.pdf

Aquabait Marine Worm Aquaculture: http://www.aquabait.com.au/about_aquabait_marine_worm_aquaculture.phtml

Nataliya Budaeva’s web page: http://nataliyabudaeva.wix.com/nataliyabudaeva

-Nataliya

Door #12: Plankton sampling with a vertebrate view!

HYPNO participating on an Arctic cruise by the Institute of Marine Research on RV Helmer Hanssen 17 Aug – 7 Sep 2015.

Julekalender Aino 2-001Most of the pelagic hydrozoans for HYPNO are collected with simple plankton nets, in the case of this Arctic cruise the double one you see in the picture. The net is towed vertically from above the bottom to the surface, bringing with it a representative sample of plankton – inclusive hydromedusae and siphonophores – from the entire water column. Standard plankton nets are generally lowered and retrieved at a speed of ~0.5 ms-1.

This particular station in the Arctic basin was over 2000 m deep, which means that a single tow takes more than an hour to complete. Sometimes waiting for the sample to come up can get a bit tedious – not at this station, though! With this beauty turning up right outside the hangar opening, the wait didn’t feel long at all!

SI_Arctic 24-8-2017 SI_Arctic 24-8-2016-Aino

Sampling for sea slugs in northern Mozambique (East Africa)

The "tree house", headquarters of the Conservation and Research project of Vamizi Island

The “tree house”, headquarters of the Conservation and Research project of Vamizi Island

An undescribed species of an aeolid. Vamizi Island.

An undescribed species of an aeolid. Vamizi Island.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tropical waters of the Indian Ocean are part of the world’s richest biogeographical region – the Indo-West Pacific (IWP), where diversity picks its high in the “Coral Triangle” an area confined by the Philippines, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea.

Within this vast realm, the east coast of Africa is probably the least studied area and Moçambique with one of the largest coastlines in the region and pristine mangrove, seagrass, and coral habitats hides a high and still largely unknown diversity of opisthobranch gastropods (sea slugs).

Phyllidia ocellata. Vamizi Island

Phyllidia ocellata. Vamizi Island

During January–February of 2014 I had the opportunity to sample in southern Moçambique together with local colleagues from the Zavora Marine Lab. The results have been so promising that we decided to organize a new fieldtrip but, this time to explore the fauna in the northern tropical latitudes of the country. In collaboration with the University Lúrio in Pemba and the Vamizi Conservation and Research Station managed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), we setup during May 2015 a two weeks fieldtrip to Vamizi Island, a remote pristine sanctuary located in the northern range of the Quirimbas archipelago. The goals were to continue the inventory of the sea slug fauna of Mozambique and Indian Ocean but also to collect specific material for several ongoing projects at the University Museum of Bergen (Natural History) related to the systematics, biogeography, and speciation of these molluscs.

Cerberilla ambonensis. Vamizi island

Cerberilla ambonensis. Vamizi island

The first challenge was to reach Vamizi! Four flights, a five hours 4-wheels drive, and at last a boat trip – all of it during four days! But, the sight over the turquoise, calm, and warm waters of Vamizi was breathtaking and well worth the effort! We were very well welcomed by the team of the Conservation and Research Project of Vamizi and the management of Vamizi Island, which have provided all the necessary conditions for a successful and pleasant work.

The white sandy beaches and turquoise waters of Vamizi Island

The white sandy beaches and turquoise waters of Vamizi Island

The pristine coastline of Palma in northern Mozambique.

The pristine coastline of Palma in northern Mozambique.

As the following days would unravel the pristine coral reefs, seagrass meadows and mangroves would not disappoint with their incredible diversity of sea slugs and all kinds of colourful marine live. Yet, and contrary to the experience of the previous year where we have collected in several southern sub-tropical areas of Moçambique (Vilankulo, Barra, Paindane, Zavora), this time was not so easy to find sea slugs and often each of us would not collect more than 4 to 10 specimens per dive; but steadily over the 2-weeks of fieldwork we reached the exciting number of about 85 species, with approximately 60 new records for Mozambique and around 14 new to Science. This seems to be a pattern on many pristine tropical areas; low abundances but high diversity of sea slugs.

Photographing the daily catch

Photographing the daily catch

The "crew". Left to right: Erwan Sola (University of KwaZulu-Natal), Isabel Silva (University Lúrio, Pemba / Vamizi Conservation and Research Project), Yara Tibiriçá (Zavora Marine Lab), Manuel Malaquias (University Museum of Bergen), and Joana Trindade (Vamizi Conservation and Research Project)

The “crew”. Left to right: Erwan Sola (University of KwaZulu-Natal), Isabel Silva (University Lúrio, Pemba / Vamizi Conservation and Research Project), Yara Tibiriçá (Zavora Marine Lab), Manuel Malaquias (University Museum of Bergen), and Joana Trindade (Vamizi Conservation and Research Project)

Transferring specimens to ethanol at Palma beach (Palma village not far from the border with Tanzania), under the puzzled eyes of a group of locals.

Transferring specimens to ethanol at Palma beach (Palma village not far from the border with Tanzania), under the puzzled eyes of a group of locals.

University Lurio. Newly graduated students with supervisors and opponents.

University Lurio. Newly graduated students with supervisors and opponents.

The farewell to Vamizi was not easy; the beauty, warm, and peaceful atmosphere of Vamizi together with its incredible underwater diversity and colours will last surely forever in our memories. Yet, the journey was not over! We headed to the town of Pemba for the last three nights where some formalities were still on the agenda.

Professor Isabel Silva from the University Lúrio in Pemba and member of the Vamizi Island Conservation and Research Project and a join-organizer of our expedition, have invited each member of the team to give a seminar at the university and to act as opponents on the defence of several theses of “licenciatura”. While my colleagues have talked about the sea slugs of Moçambique and the coral reefs of Vamizi Island, I decided to get a away from my field of research (but not of interest!) and discourse about “wired animals” such as loriciferans, xenoturbellids, kinorhynchs, and others… Biological diversity is definitely much more than turtles, sharks, whales, and manta-rays…, even goes beyond colourful sea slugs!

 

Melibe sp. Vamizi Island

Melibe sp. Vamizi Island.

Is this a slug? Yes it is! Marionia arborescens. Vamizi Island

Is this a slug? Yes it is! Marionia arborescens. Vamizi Island.

Chromodoris cf. quadricolor. Vamizi Island

Chromodoris cf. quadricolor. Vamizi Island.

Chromodoris boucheti. Vamizi Island

Chromodoris boucheti. Vamizi Island

Chelidonura punctata. Vamizi Island

Chelidonura punctata. Vamizi Island.

Chelidonura mandroroa. Vamizi Island

Chelidonura mandroroa. Vamizi Island.

Chelidonura electra. Vamizi Island

Chelidonura electra. Vamizi Island.

Phyllodesmium cf. magnum. Vamizi Island.

Phyllodesmium cf. magnum. Vamizi Island.

Cadlinella ornatissima. Vamizi island.

Cadlinella ornatissima. Vamizi island.

Baby green turtles recovered from a damaged nest, with a rare case of albinism in this group of reptiles.

Baby green turtles recovered from a damaged nest, with a rare case of albinism in this group of reptiles.

Conservation on the move; Release of green baby turtles on the beach at Vamizi Island.

Conservation “on the move”; Release of green baby turtles on the beach at Vamizi Island.

Philinopsis pilsbryi. Vamizi Island

Philinopsis pilsbryi. Vamizi Island.

Coconut crab. Extinct to nearly extinct in many islands of the Indo-Pacific. Vamizi Island.

Coconut crab. Extinct to nearly extinct in many islands of the Indo-Pacific. Vamizi Island.

Another resident of Vamizi Island locally named "jibóia".

A “slimy” resident of Vamizi Island locally named “jibóia”.

A kingfisher bird. Vamizi Island.

A kingfisher bird. Vamizi Island.

A surprising guest found in my bedroom.

An uninvited guest in my bedroom.

A weaver bird. Vamizi Island.

A weaver bird. Vamizi Island.

-Manuel

Uncovering the origin of species in the Caribbean region – fieldwork in the Florida Keys

The lab building at Mote (summerland Key)

The lab building at Mote (summerland Key)

The tropical western Atlantic and in particular the Caribbean is the second most diverse marine region in the World only outnumbered in species by the Indo-West Pacific. The processes that lead to this richness are not fully understood, but the diversity of habitats, the network of islands and cays, the uplift of the Isthmus of Panama, and the various periods of transient allopatry caused by sea level changes during the Plio-Pleistocene epochs have most likely played a role.

The canal just off the Mote Lab

The canal just off the Mote Lab

Anne's beach (Islamorada); a sandy flat with patches of seagrass and coral

Anne’s beach (Islamorada); a sandy flat with patches of seagrass and coral

A mooring area with lined by mangroves with the bottom covered by seagrass and algae (Key Largo)

A mooring area with lined by mangroves with the bottom covered by seagrass and algae (Key Largo)

Mangroves at Summerland Key

Mangroves at Summerland Key

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Key deer (Odocoileus virginianus clavium). An endemic subspecies of the American white-tailed deer

A Key deer (Odocoileus virginianus clavium). An endemic subspecies of the American white-tailed deer

The iguana is an exotic species very common in the Keys

The iguana is an exotic species very common in the Keys

Pelicans, a daily presence in the Keys

Pelicans, a daily presence in the Keys

At the Section for Natural History at the University Museum of Bergen we are investigating the causes and timing of marine diversification in the Caribbean using as model a cryptic species complex of a gastropod (the Bulla occidentalis species-complex). This project led us previously to sample in places like Brazil, Venezuela, Guadeloupe, Panama, the Bahamas, and Bermuda and benefited from samples from many other places collected and kindly provided by several colleagues.

The Most Wanted! Bulla occidentalis (Key Largo)

The Most Wanted! Bulla occidentalis (Key Largo)

At night sorting through the daily catch

At night sorting through the daily catch

A preliminary molecular phylogenetic analysis of the data have yielded intriguing results with specimens from the Florida Keys depicting an unexpected level of isolation hardly sharing any haplotypes with “conspecifics” from close by neighboring areas like the Florida Peninsula and Cuba. Nevertheless, the reduced number of specimens that we had available from the Florida Keys hampered any sound testing of this trend. Therefore, a fieldtrip to the Keys was organized between the 7–16 January 2015 in order to collect additional specimens from the local representative of the Bulla occidentalis species-complex.

Spurilla braziliana (Key Largo)

Spurilla braziliana (Key Largo)

Phylaplysia engeli blending with its preferred habitat - seagrass leaves

Phylaplysia engeli blending with its preferred habitat – seagrass leaves

Hermaea cruciata (Key Largo)

Hermaea cruciata (Key Largo)

Haminoea sp. (Key Largo)

Haminoea sp. (Key Largo)

The Florida Keys are an arc-shaped coral archipelago located off the southern coast of Florida, dividing the Atlantic Ocean to the east from the Gulf of Mexico to the west. The Keys form the southernmost portion of the continental United States; they begin at the southeastern coast of the Florida peninsula, about 24 km south of Miami, and extend in a arc to Key West, the southernmost of the inhabited islands, and on to the uninhabited Dry Tortugas, just 140 km from Cuba.

The base for the all operation was set at Mote Marine Tropical Laboratory in Summerland Key near the southern tip of the Keys. Pleasant accommodation with sea views, a lab equipped with microscopes and seawater on the tap, plus my little red Mazda rented at the Miami airport (by the way… for a week it became the smallest car to ride the roads of the Keys!) were the ingredients to what turn into a very successful fieldtrip.

The Keys stretch over 150 km and a great amount of time was spent finding and exploring good sampling sites. Those varied from mangrove areas with seagrass beds, sandy beaches with patches of seagrass and clumps of coral, to areas densely vegetated by mangroves, algae and seagrass. At the end two populations of Bulla occidentalis were found plus many other spectacular sea slugs. This material is now housed in our systematic collections and will help unraveling the “entrails” that underlie marine speciation and biogeography in the tropical western Atlantic.

 

 

Haminoea antillarum (Key Largo)

Haminoea antillarum (Key Largo)

Elysia subornata (Key Largo)

Elysia subornata (Key Largo)

Elysia papillosa (Key Largo)

Elysia papillosa (Key Largo)

Elysia crispata (Key Largo)

Elysia crispata (Key Largo)

Elysia cornigera (Key Largo)

Elysia cornigera (Key Largo)

Dondice occidentalis (Key Largo)

Dondice occidentalis (Key Largo)

Cratena cf. piuatensis (Key Largo)

Cratena cf. piuatensis (Key Largo)

Costasiella ocellifera (Key Largo)

Costasiella ocellifera (Key Largo)

Chelidonura berolina (Key Largo)

Chelidonura berolina (Key Largo)

A red form of ?Dondice occidentalis (Key Largo)

A red form of ?Dondice occidentalis (Key Largo)