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!

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

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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,


Following the workshop on the brittle stars – the Ophiuroidea – that we arranged earlier this fall, we have a lot of samples that have been selected for DNA barcoding. These are in the pipeline for photographing, and the photographer is currently seeing stars…

Below is a sample of the animals, each animal is photographed twice; dorsal and ventral view.

Brittle stars

Brittle stars en masse – we plan on filling two plates this time around, so in total there will be 380 photograps.

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