Wednesday 12 June 2019

Getting beneath the skin of animals on survey Blog#7

As part of the sampling work the team have been carrying out, we have been collecting samples to support the work of our colleagues at the Natural History Museum and the Darwin Tree of Life project: ( 

During the collection of grab samples, we occasionally get samples that aren’t suitable for our MPA monitoring work. These samples may have had a stone caught in the grab jaws and have sediment washed out or have too little sediment for us to use. Rather than dispose of these samples, the team have been using them to collect individual animals, especially worms, sponges, bryozoans, starfish and brittlestars for the project, making maximum use of the time we spend and data we collect at sea.

Processing the DNA samples in the vessel's lab © JNCC/Cefas

When we’ve identified a sample for DNA analysis, we sieve off the sediment and retain the animals we find as well as any individuals living on the stones and cobbles that we’ve collected. The specimens are then identified by how they look to the eye (their morphotype) and a sample is extracted and preserved in ethanol to allow experts ashore to identify the animal and sequence its genome ( This allows us to build up a large dataset on what the genome of different species and morphotypes looks like, which is known as a biobank. One special request we’ve had is for the pelican foot gastropod (Aporrhais pespelecani) so watch this space to see if any turn up!

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Survey Fun Fact:
Aporrhais pespelecani is the Latin for ‘pelican’s foot’ which describes the outer lip of the gastropod which expands to a shape similar to that of the webbed foot of a pelican.