Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The work begins!

Twenty one scientists and students representing seven countries have gathered in Grahamstown at the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB) to identify some 7000 samples collected during the seamounts cruise in 2009. Workshop participants include: Alex Rogers (UK, Oxford University); James Mclaine (UK, Natural History Museum); Jane Read (UK, National Oceanography Centre); Julian Badcock (UK, Natural History Museum); Kirsty Kemp (UK, Zoological Society of London); Monica Mwale (SA, South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity); Nicole Du Plessis (SA, University of Cape Town); Nkosinathi Masangula (SA, South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity); Oddgeir Alvheim (Norway, Institute of Marine Research); Peter Konstantinidis (UK, Natural History Museum); Philipp Boersch-Supan (UK, Oxford University); Stela Fernando (Mozambique, National Institute of Fisheries Research); Rainer von Brandis (SA, International Union for Conservation of Nature); Riaan Cedras (SA, University of the Western Cape); Eric Anderson (SA, South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity), Tinus Sonnekus (SA, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University); Tom Bornman (SA, South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity); Vijay Mangar (Mauritius, Albion Institute); Vladimir Laptikhovsky (Falklands, Fisheries Department); Amy Taylor (UK, Royal Holloway University of London) and Gildas Todinanahary (Madagascar, University of Toliara)

After familiarizing themselves with the laboratory facilities, participants eagerly fell in behind their microscopes and began working through intimidating rows of jars containing fishes, squids, zooplankton and other interesting creatures. Many specimens look similar to each other and scientists have to use elaborate morphological features such as muscle orientation and gut length to differentiate between them. Although no new species have been discovered as yet, the really interesting samples from the colder waters are still to be brought to the workbench during the ensuing week.

First picture: A jar of lanternfishes wait to be scrutinized by Peter Konstantinidis.

Second picture: Hatchetfish (Argyropelecus aculatus). These small (5cm), unusually shaped deep sea fish use bioluminescence (lights on their bodies) to escape predators. By matching the light intensity of their bodies with the light penetrating the water from above, the fish does not appear darker if seen from below and can therefore not be seen by predators.

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