Category Archives: Polychaeta

Guest researchers: Andres

Andres_photoWe recently had Andrés Arias from the University of Oviedo, Spain, visiting our lab to work on the MIWA-material, and asked him to share a little about his work. In his own words:

During my visit to the Bergen Museum I studied two genera of onuphid polychaetes, Onuphis and Mooreonuphis collected by the MIWA Project in West Africa.


The taxonomy of eastern Atlantic species of the genus Onuphis has been confused due to the somewhat cursory and misleading descriptions of species as well as the disregard of the true identity of the type species of the genus. Recently this confusion began to clear as a result of more detailed morphological studies and the formal redescription of the controversial type species, O. eremita. I have been working on European and Mediterranean Onuphis as well as intertidal/shallow subtidal Onuphis spp. and Mooreonuphis spp. from West Africa and the Macaronesian archipelagos.


Worms from the genus Onuphis

Now, I’ve had the great opportunity to start working on deeper samples of Onuphis and Mooreonuphis from W. Africa. The study of this material is very exciting and promises to be very interesting since in a first approximation we have found at least six species that are new to science! This will contribute to updating the list of bristle worms from West Africa. This information will fill spatial gaps for the genera Onuphis and Mooreonuphis, in a region where little information is available, which is undoubtedly needed!

I would like to thank everybody at the Museum for their kindness and help, which made my stay very pleasant!

Thank you for visiting, and for contributing to the blog!

Mapping our barcoding efforts

Here is a  interactive map of all the samples (2175 as we speak!) that we have submitted to the BOLD-database for genetic barcoding.

You can also  follow this link to find it.

miwa stations

All the stations from which we have submitted specimens for barcoding

By clicking around on the map you can see how many specimens we have submitted from each station, as well as photos of the animals and wether or not the sequencing was successful and resulted in a genetic barcode.

zoomed in

By clicking on a station, you get the information about which animals have been sequenced – here two brittle stars that were both successfully barcoded











The samples we have submitted (so far – there are still plans to do more!) include several animal main taxa; Crustaceans, Echinoderms, Molluscs and Polychaetes. These animals have been sorted out and identified by employees at the invertebrate collections, and by visiting guest researchers who have come here to work in the material – so it is very much a combined effort behind this.

# of submitted specimens (animals) from each phylum

# of submitted specimens (animals) from each phylum

Not all our material is suited for genetic analyses; fixation in formaldehyde gives well preserved specimens that are well suited for morphological examinations – which is the backbone of taxonomy – but it distorts the DNA so that the samples are not eligible for molecular work.
Provided that the material has been fixated in a DNA-friendly way (i.e. in ethanol), there is a lot of work to be done before we are left with identified specimens. We wrote a bit about the sorting of samples her: “biodiversity in a dish”.

We are still working actively with this material and with the results we are getting – some of it has already been published – se our list of publications here – and more is on the way.

New knowledge on the Glyceriformia through an integrated approach

Integrating morphological studies with DNA barcoding is indicating significantly higher species diversity than previously known in the polychaete families Goniadidae and Glyceridae (Glyceriformia) from the Western coast of Africa.

Our multi-toothed acquaintance from a previous blog post makes an appearance here, together with a multitude of other species. The animals were initially identified to species or genus level using available literature with keys or morphological descriptions. Several specimens did not match any species description and may be new species.

For each recorded species, a number of specimens were selected for DNA barcoding and uploaded into the BOLD database. You can read more about how this work was carried out in this blog post from when guest researchers Lloyd and Williams visited in November 2015.

Our preliminary findings were presented as a poster at the 12th International Polychaete Conference in Cardiff, Wales during the first week of August.  You can read about the University Museums attendance here. Next we are hoping to invite one of the taxonomic experts on the group to come visit and work on the material – there is certainly a lot to be done!


The poster presented at the IPC2016. Click to enlarge!

My, what big teeth you have!

Well, if not big, then certainly many!

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

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

The species was first described in the yearbook of Bergen Museum (now the University Museum of Bergen) in Arwidsson, Ivar. (1899). Studien über die Familien Glyceridae und Goniadidae. Bergens Museums Aarbog. 1898(11): 1-69, plates I-IV., which is available online at

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

Guest researcher: Anna Zhadan

We recently had a visitor, Anna, from the White Sea Biological Station staying here for two weeks. In Anna’s own words:


Anna in the lab

I have been studying polychaetes for about 20 years, starting with taxonomic studies of cryptic Orbiniid species in the White and Barents Sea. Later, I switched to polychaete anatomy and ultrastucture, and recently returned to faunistic and taxonomical investigations supported by the molecular methods.

During this visit to Bergen Museum I studied two families – the Orbiniidae and Cossuridae – from the Northern and equatorial part of the West Africa. The representatives of these families have poor morphology with paucity of useful for identification characters.

Cossura sp.B, Mauritania, GR13-1

Cossura sp.B, Mauritania, GR13-1

Leodamas cf.rubra

Leodamas cf.rubra

The descriptions of most of species are quite old, which means that they are too short and general, and can fit for several similar species. That’s why molecular investigations will be extremely helpful to distinguish close species here. I could recognize 15 and 3 putative species in Orbiniidae and Cossuridae respectively. After getting barcoding results I will investigate them again in Russia to make detailed redescriptions of previously known species and, most probably, descriptions of species new to science.

It will be exciting to see how many of putative species will be confirmed by barcoding!

I want to thank everybody at the Museum for their friendship and help in making my stay so pleasant. And I was absolutely fascinated by beauty and charm of Bergen – its landscapes and architecture, history and culture, and of course people.

Anna Zhadan,

N.A.Pertsov White Sea Biological Station,

Biological faculty, M.V. Lomonosov

Moscow State University,


Guest researchers: Mario

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

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

Mario, whose home institution is the University of Antioquia, in Medellin, Colombia, arrived here in the beginning of January.

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 though NorBOL (for the Norwegian material) and MIWA (for our West African samples).


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

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

Methyl-green staining pattern of one of Pista species.

Methyl-green staining pattern of one of Pista species.










In his own words:

I usually work on the morphology of just one of the several families of polychaetes, the spaghetti worms or Terebellidae. 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 never will end because we are continuing with 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 clue for splitting very close species.

But this is not enough; it was possible to identified 43 species of terebellids belonging to 16 different genera, from material collected in West Africa coasts. This is a high polychaete diversity in only one family. For example, we found three Lysilla species, in one region with only one recorded species. New species? Highly possible. One can only wonder what the diversity of the remaining families is?

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, sometimes with a deep blue sky. A landscape like that never could be my company in my tropical city.

Snowy view from the lab window

Snowy view from the lab window

Thank you for the visit!

Preparing plates

Today, the mail brought us this:

New plates for tissue samples!

New plates for tissue samples!

A good thing too, as we were running out of plates to fill. We are currently busy preparing four (possibly five) plates of material from the west coast of Africa.

There will be one plate of Amphipoda, which we have not submitted from this region previously (resulting from the workshop that Anne Helene and Ania had in December).

The remainder of the shipment will be polychaetes that have been identified both by our resident taxonomists and the guests that came here to work on the material over the past couple of months; São, Julio, Kate, and –most recently – Mario.

Mario at work in the lab

Mario at work in the lab

Mario arrived here on the 4th of January, and stayed for a month – we’ll make a proper post about his work here in a bit (he is currently on his way to field work in the Antarctic, but has promised a post later on). His main field of interest are Terebellomorph polychaetes, and he focussed especially on the genus Pista during his stay.

So now we are working on organizing, photographing, cataloguing and otherwise preparing the material – our guest have been busy, so there is a wealth of new data to deal with.

Tools of the trade

Tools of the trade

Tom taking tissue samples for two plates of Ampharetidae and other Terebellomorph polychaetes

Tom taking tissue samples for two plates of Ampharetidae and other Terebellomorph polychaetes

Photos and data entry

Photos and data entry

We have new guests arriving in a few days; there’s plenty to do. Stay tuned for updates!

Let’s hope for successful sequencing and many interesting results!

PS: make sure to check this Friday (the 12th) for some Biodiversity Love; the JRS Biodiversity Foundation has asked us to

Please share your love of biodiversity this Valentine’s Day with the hashtag #bdvalentine. Have fun and help raise awareness of biodiversity and conservation!  This is a chance to draw your audience to your social media and to express appreciation for your partners, grantees, collaborators, or someone you love.”

We are joining in, don’t miss out!


Guest Researchers: Kate

Collecting Magelona samples on my favourite sampling beach, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland. A beach known to many polychaetologists through the work of naturalist George Johnston.

Collecting Magelona samples on my favourite sampling beach, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland. A beach known to many polychaetologists through the work of naturalist George Johnston.

Earlier this month we had a visit from Kate Mortimer from Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales. In her own words:

Magelonid polychaetes – Shovelhead worms

7th – 15th November

I have been specialising in the taxonomy of magelonid polychaetes for the last 15 years, particularly the investigation of species from Europe and the Indian Ocean. More recently I have been additionally studying the behaviour and functional morphology of this fascinating group.




Making drawings of specimens from the MIWA project back at the National Museum Wales, Cardiff.

Making drawings of specimens from the MIWA project back at the National Museum Wales, Cardiff.

Discussions with Jon Anders Kongsrud at the University Museum of Bergen (UMB) started at the International Polychaete Conference in Lecce 2010 about the MIWA-Project and the magelonid species off West Africa. I started work investigating the magelonid specimens from the MIWA-project back in 2013. Early investigation work suggested the possibility of up to 16 putative species from the samples, which potentially included several species new to science. So the work began, on the lengthy process of drawing, describing and imaging each individual species back at the National Museum Wales, in Cardiff.



Imaging a Magelona

Imaging a Magelona, this specimen has a distinct thoracic pigment band

Whilst work continued looking at the morphology of these specimens it was decided that it would be prudent to come to the University Museum of Bergen to look at additional magelonid specimens from further MIWA samples, in order to select samples for DNA sequencing. The week would further cement morphological descriptions and to search for additional material of the rarer species within samples. So in November I took the trip to Bergen, leaving a wet and windy Cardiff behind and arriving in an equally wet and windy city!

After a week in the lab, over 100 vials of specimens and over 800 specimens have been studied. A further four potential species have been identified and the material is now ready for tissue sampling and photographing before the material is sent off to Canada for sequencing.

Working in the lab

Working in the lab

Magelonid samples processed and identified, awaiting sequencing.

Magelonid samples processed and identified, awaiting sequencing.

It has been a successful week, and I am very much looking forward to comparing the results from the sequencing to the morphology of these animals. Meanwhile back in Cardiff, we have selected specimens of similar British species for comparison to the West African material and Norwegian species.

Many thanks to all at the Museum for making me feel so welcome in Bergen. I very much look forward to collaborating with you on this project and look forward to some fascinating and interesting results from the project.

Guest Researchers: Williams and Lloyd

Lloyd (left) and Williams.  (photo: Williams)

Lloyd (left) and Williams. (photo: Williams)

Goniada congoensis collected in Nigeria

Goniada congoensis collected in Nigeria

A Glycera africana collected from Ghana

A Glycera africana collected from Ghana

A Goniada multidentata from Ghana

A Goniada multidentata from Ghana

For the past two weeks we have had two old friends visiting to work on the material collected through the MIWA-project:

Lloyd from Ghana, who has previously been here to participate in the first of our workshops in the Espegrend field station, and Williams from Nigeria, who has been both on the Espegrend workshops and who also included a visit to the Museum as a guest researcher in combination with the workshop visit last summer.

This time around, the focus has been on Polychaetes from the suborder Glyceriformia, mainly within the families Glyceridae (bloodworms) and Goniadidae.

Our visitors have been working on identifying specimens from a variety of countries, and selecting specimens from the different (morpho)species so that we could proceed to start work on a plate of Glyceriform worms that will  be sent to Canada for sequencing.

We have gone through the whole process of identification, section, photographing, metadata assembly and the creation of accounts and projects in the BOLD database, where our sequences will be uploaded.

It will be very interesting to see the results!

Photographing and keeping records of the animals selected for barcoding

Photographing and keeping records of the animals selected for barcoding (photo: Williams)

Ready to take tissue samples to be sent to Canada for sequencing

Ready to take tissue samples to be sent to Canada for sequencing (photo: Williams)


Thank you for visiting, and for all your hard work!

Guest Researchers

IMGP0472The invertebrate collections are high in demand these days, and we have a string of visitors coming here to examine our material. They range from students just starting out to well established researchers – some are new to us, others are old friends returning.

Amongst the latter is São from the University of Aveiro, Portugal. She works with polychaetes in the family Nephtyidae, and came for a short visit in October. In her own words:

18-23 October: After an amazingly (for Bergen ☺) sunny Sunday, with a wonderful walk in the mountains, I had a very productive week looking through nephtyids from Western Africa.

More than 300 specimens were examined and ascribed to 13 putative species. The results were very exiting! Interesting distribution patterns and a couple of potentially new species for science. Now we are waiting for barcodes…                                                       -São

We have also had a Russian student visiting for two weeks earlier this fall. Polina worked on polychaetes in the family Onuphidae together with Nataliya, and will continue to work on some of the material that she examined. Currently we have visitors from Ghana and Nigeria, and that will be the next blog post – so stay tuned!