Category Archives: species identification

Guest researcher: Mario



Mario (who also visited us in January) came back to continue his work on the Terebellids and Pista (polychaeta) in October. In his own words: 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.

Pista cristata

Pista cristata

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.

You can read more about Mario’s visit in our Invertebrate Advent Calendar, which is running from December 1-24th on our collections blog. Click here to find all the calendar posts!

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 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


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!

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

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 researcher: Anna

We recently had a visitor here, Anna, who was working on the Asteroidea – the sea stars – collected through MIWA. In her own words:

photo from Bergen21 February – 4 March

I am a specialist in asteroids from the P.P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, Russian Academy of Sciences. Although I mostly work on the deep-sea star fishes from the northern regions, I was very interested in examination of the shallow water fauna off the Western Africa.

I have examined more than 150 specimens of sea stars during a two-week stay. As a result, I have identified about 22 species belonging to 13 genera. The most diverse and abundant genus it this collection was Astropecten that included very different species, from small to enormous ones.


I had a very successful work in Bergen, which was very interesting and useful for me as a taxonomist!

Thank you for the visit and the blog post, Anna!

The next step for us will be to try to do some DNA barcoding on the material she has identified. 

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!