Author Archives: EW

About EW

Endre Willassen Professor emeritus -zoology

New study of polychaete worms published

Western Africa has many undescribed species of shovelhead worms. Some of them are now described in this publication.

New Magelona species published

Kate has visited the collections in Bergen several times to work on shovelhead worms material in our collections.  Kate told us: “I have been specialising in the taxonomy of magelonid polychaetes for the last 20 years, particularly the investigation of species from Europe and the Indian Ocean. Recently I have been additionally studying the behaviour and functional morphology of this fascinating group.”

You can read more about her visits in November 2015, January 2017 and February 2019 (and we hope to see her again soon!)

Imaging a Magelona

Link to the most recent paper:
Integrative taxonomy of West African Magelona (Annelida: Magelonidae): species with thoracic pigmentation (2021) Kate Mortimer, Jon Anders Kongsrud, Endre Willassen
Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, zlab070, 

New paper on polychaetes

Color morphs of Aponuphis species (Borisova et al. 2018)

We congratulate our guest student Polina from Moscow State University with her first publication based on studies of the MIWA material in our collections. The paper describes species complexes of the genus Aponuphis from the West Afircan coast and analyses their relationships from mitochondrial sequences.

P.B. Borisova, D.M. Schepetov, N.E. Budaeva (2018) Aponuphis Kucheruk, 1978 (Annelida: Onuphidae) from western African waters. Invertebrate Zoology 15(1): 19–41. Reprint requests can be directed to Dr. Budaeva, E-mail:


IBOL 2017

We contributed posters and speed talks at the 7th International Barcode of Life Conference in Krüger Park, South Africa, November 20-24.

Katrine, Jon, Tom, and Lloyd attended the meeting with presentations of our MIWA work. Here is Katrine’s picture on Twitter of Lloyd when giving his talk on the Glyceriformia worms.

Abstracts from the the presentations are published in Genome 60(11)


New species of West African snails

Our studies of mollusks have revealed new species of philinid snails. They are described in a paper that was published today in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society with open access:

We used both morphological techniques and DNA-based species discrimination methods in this study and DNA-barcodes have been uploaded to the BOLD-database. Laona nanseni was named as a tribute to the Nansen programme and Philine schrammi in honour of J. R. Schramm, who founded JRS Biodiversity Foundation, an important sponsor of our work.

Laona nanseni new species

Laona nanseni new species

Philine schrammi new species

Philine schrammi new species


Mysterious limpet

Management of species requires information about their habitat, ecology, population size, geographical range, exploitation and environmental threats. It usually should go without saying that confident species identification is a key factor in the acquisition of such knowledge. DNA barcoding may help to establish a relative objective identity tag on taxa and to place local and regional populations in a global context with their closest relatives.

We recently published a paper about a species of Cellana that  is closely related to C. toreuma in the Indo-Pacific. More research is needed to assess if the Gulph of Guinea population is a separate species or a population with relatively recent connections to the Indian Ocean.

The paper and Additional file are Open Access here:

Cellana species near torreuma from Nigeria

Cellana species near toreuma from Nigeria

Studies of Hydrozoa

hydro_peopleThe first weeks of July have been dedicated to the collections of Hydrozoa.  Although the species that is presently  known as Sarsia tubulosa has been almost a totem animal to marine biologists in Bergen since Michael Sars’ pioneering studies of cnidarians and other invertebrates on the Bergen coast, this taxonomically complex group has received relatively limited attention from local students.
We are very pleased therefore that Professor Francesco Ramil Blanco and his PhD-student Marta Gil from the University of Vigo are taking the time to examine some of our material  of benthic hydrozoans. Benthic hydrozoans are sitting on various forms of substrate like sand, stones or dead shells. But many are also epibionts, which means that they are attached to other organisms such as algae, crustaceans or even other hydrozoans.

Front end of a Hyas crab carrying Hydrozoa and other organisms.

Front end of a Hyas crab carrying Hydrozoa and other organisms.

The alternation of generations between polyp and medusa stages, one of M.Sars’  discoveries, is just one of the reasons why these small cnidarians, the more inclusive group that the hydrozoans belong to, have been taxonomically challenging. There are many examples of such different life history stages having been described over time as different species.  But there are also other reasons as to why hydrozoans should be studied more thoroughly. Access to new material, better microscopes and molecular techniques are giving researchers new possibilities to assess the diversity of these strange animals.

Specimens of Hydrozoa are mounted in resinous medium for microscopy.

Specimens of Hydrozoa are mounted in resinous medium for microscopy.

Slides for microscopy

Slides for microscopy


Streptocaulus dollfusi2

Streptocaulus dollfusi – microscopy picture of part of a colony from West Africa identified by Ramil and Gil.


Team work in an enlarged micro-world

New Master thesis: studies of Diopatra polychaetes

Ongoing studies of the polychaete worms collected by « R/V Dr Fridtjof Nansen» cruises are revealing a great diversity of species including many that are also completely new to science. This observation is demonstrated in a recently completed master thesis presented by Mr Martin M. Hektoen for the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences at University of Bergen.

Mr. Hektoen decided to to respond to our announcement in 2013 of a master project and studied the genus Diopatra in the GCLME and CCLME regions supervised by Dr. Nataliya Budaeva.

Nataliya Budaeva and Martin M. Hektoen

Nataliya Budaeva and Martin M. Hektoen

He presented his work in public before the examination commission on June 26th. The thesis is begun with an opening quote from H. Hemsworth Day (1960) reading: “ … the question as to whether there is one species of Diopatra or several species is a matter of controversy.”

Hektoen’s resolution to what may now seem more as a deceased controversy is a paper recognizing nine new species of Diopatra from the East Atlantic. The studies are based on detailed morphological studies, – microscopy and Scanning Electron Microscopy, and supplemented by DNA-sequencing of mitochondrial genes. Laborious descriptions, identification keys, and a phylogenetic analysis are some of the important elements of the thesis contents.

Adjudication of the work was performed by polychaete specialist Dr Eivind Oug from the Norwegian Institute of Water Research, Grimstad, and Prof. Anders Hobæk from the Department of Biology at UiB. We extend our congratulations to Martin for his comprehensive work and fine work, and are looking forward to see the results in a peer reviewed publication in the near future. Cheers, Martin!

Available DNA barcodes to gastropods

01-02-2015 19-47-0501-02-2015 19-55-26

01-02-2015 19-49-47

Our joint efforts in producing DNA barcodes for West African gastropods have been moderately successful with sequences generated for about 55 % of the species.

Data for successful as well as failed specimens are available on this page.

A pop-up window is displayed by clicking on the blue markers. In this example, there is a BARCODED specimen of Nassarius atlantideus. Notice the processID, MIWAM050-13, which can be used to access the specimen in the BOLD database.

Open BOLD in your web browser. Select “Databases from the top menu. Type the processID in the search field and it will bring you to the species information page,

Twinkle, twinkle, brittle star. How I wonder what you are –

The brittle stars are a fascinating group of animals with about 2000 known species. Quite a few species have been identified from the MIWA material and we are trying to compare the African shelf fauna with that of the northern Atlantic. Initial DNA-barcoding has returned some puzzling results and we needed another look on some of the problematic individuals. Fortunately, two researchers with very special knowledge of the brittle stars were able to join us in an identification workshop during the last week of November.
Øyidis Alme did her master study on brittle stars and she was joined by Sabine Stöhr from the Natural History Museum of Stockholm for a three days session over the microscopes. Sabine is a respected specialist on the brittle stars and maintains The World Ophiuroidea Database:

Samples to be checked