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A world of biodiversity

Zooplankton workshop on Faroe Islands: Karina Nolsøe, (Faroe Islands), Astthor Gislason (Iceland) , Eilif Gaard (Faroe Islands) and Anna Rosa Bødvarsdottir (Iceland).

During the last six months, a number of scientists from different nations have been busy with the identification work of zooplankton in samples from the MAR-ECO cruise on RV G.O. Sars in 2004.
By Tone Falkenhaug

For each net sample of mesozooplankton (0,2 – 20 mm in size) a water column of 1000-1500 m was filtered, equivalent to 30 000 - 40 000 liters of water. All zooplankton caught in this large volume of water fits in a small jar, and doesn’t look very impressive at first sight. However, when looking at the sample through the dissecting microscope, a world of biodiversity emerge! A single sample of zooplankton from the Mid Atlantic Ridge may contain ~2000 specimens, belonging to more than 100 different species. The identification and enumeration of these samples are thus very time consuming.

“Bird watching” through the dissecting microscope

Zooplankton workshop at IMR, Flødevigen Research Station, Arendal, Norway: Astthor Gislason (Iceland), Georgyi Vinogradov (Russia), Tone Falkenhaug (Norway)

What makes the scientist spend hours of painstaking work at the dissecting microscope? Identification of zooplankton has many similarities with the challenging hobby of watching birds. One of the great rewards in both bird- and plankton-watching is being able to identify species. The pleasant recognition of a rare species, or the excitement when one realizes that this might be something completely new (to the scientist or to the science…).

Whenever species identification is made through a binocular or a dissecting microscope, similar skills are needed: an eye for details and a good portion of patience.

An international joint effort

The identification of the MAR-ECO zooplankton samples requires expertise on several animal groups. This is only possible through an international cooperation and the involvement of several scientists from different countries and institutions.

The identification of mesozooplankton from the MAR-ECO cruise on RV G.O. Sars in 2004, has been made possible through the following initiatives:

MAR-ECO workshops on zooplankton identification
Three workshops has been held:

The zooplankton group at P.P.Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow (from left): Michael Vinogradov, Alexander Vereshchaka, Etery Musaeva, Tone Falkenhaug (visitor from IMR, Norway), Alexandra Stupnikova, Georgyi Vinogradov, Dima Kulagin
  • Marine Research Institute, Iceland: 22 – 29 November 2004 Faroese
  • Fisheries Laboratory, Faroe Islands: 10 – 17 January 2005
  • Institute of Marine Research, Arendal, Norway: 31 January – 5 February 2005

Guest scientists
Dr. Georgyi Vinogradov was a guest scientist at IMR, Flødevigen Research Station, Arendal, Norway, during 4 weeks 2-30 of February, sorting and identification of zooplankton.

Nancy Copley visited IMR, Flødevigen Research Station 7 – 11 March 2005. Selected zooplankton groups were sorted out from ethanol fixed zooplankton samples for later DNA sequencing. The molecular analyses will give us valuable information on cryptic or even new species. This work is a co-operation between the two Census of Marine Life projects MAR-ECO and CmarZ.

Involvement of Russian zooplankton experts
The remaining mesozooplankton samples have been transported to the P.P.Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, Russian Academy of Sciences;Moscow. A group of Russian taxonomists and students are now doing the final analyzes.



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