Hot off the press: biogeography of Southern Ocean sea stars

Our paper on the biogeography of Southern Ocean sea stars is out in Journal of Biogeography:

Reproductive strategy as a piece of the biogeographic puzzle: a case study using Antarctic sea stars (Echinodermata, Asteroidea), by Camille Moreau et al.

Aim: To describe and analyse asteroid biogeographic patterns in the Southern Ocean (SO) and test whether reproductive strategy (brooder versus broad- caster) can explain distribution patterns at the scale of the entire class. We hypothesize that brooding and broadcasting species display different biogeo- graphic patterns.

Location: Southern Ocean, south of 45 °S.

Methods: Over 14,000 asteroid occurrences are analysed using bootstrapped spanning network (BSN), non-metrical multidimensional scaling (nMDS) and clustering to uncover the spatial structure of faunal similarities among 25 bioregions.

Results: Main biogeographic patterns are congruent with previous works based on other taxa and highlight the isolation of New Zealand, the high richness in the Scotia Arc area particularly of brooding species, an East/West Antarctic dif- ferentiation, and the faunal affinities between South America and sub-Antarctic Islands. Asteroids show lower endemism levels than previously reported with 29% of species occurring in Antarctica only. In particular, asteroids from Tierra del Fuego showed affinities with those of West Antarctica at the species level, suggesting a recent mixing of assemblages. Biogeographic patterns are highly linked to reproductive strategy. Patterns also differ according to the tax- onomic level, revealing the underlying role of historical factors.

Main conclusions: Patterns of sea star biogeography are consistent with results obtained for other marine groups and are strongly linked to reproductive strategy.

Camille is off to the ACE Expedition

This season 2017, Camille Moreau, PhD student at the Universities of Brussels (ULB) and Dijon, is joining a major Swiss-led research expedition circum-navigating the Antarctic: the ACE (Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition).

In the framework of his PhD project, Camille will take part as a member of the ASCCC (Antarctic Seabed Carbon Capture Change) team gathering scientists from master students to senior scientists. Their research will investigate the importance of sea bed animals in carbon cycling and how climate change will impact these processes in the Southern Ocean.

The project is led by David Barnes, a marine biologist at the British Antarctic Survey and zoology/ecology professor at the University of Cambridge. He took part in the first leg of the expedition, from Cape Town to Hobart. Camille will join the team in Hobart, Tasmania for the second leg of the expedition, a which will take the ship to Punta Arenas, Chile. The team will have the opportunity to visit rarely studied sub-Antarctic islands (Macquarie, Balleny, Scott, Peter the 1st and Diego Ramirez). They will also carry on researches around the Mertz Glacier in Antarctica.

Collection of benthic organisms using a trawl, investigation of marine debris ashore and use of a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) will organise their daily life for the next few weeks.

For more information regarding the expedition and the ASCCC project follow this link or follow their progress on twitter @ACE_Expedition and @asccc_news.

Carnet de Mission Rencontres : Philippe Dubois

Carnet de Mission Rencontres est un format complémentaire à Carnet de Mission qui vous présente plus en détails les protagonistes de l’aventure Kerguelens. Une ouverture sur les différentes vocations que l’on croise sur la route des Terres Australes Françaises !

Interview de Philippe Dubois.


PhD position on Southern Ocean sea stars genetics available at VUB

PhD scholarship (4 years) in molecular ecology at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Department of Biology, Marine Biology Lab, Belgium.

Full ad available here.

We are searching for a highly motivated PhD student that will work on evolution, population genetics and connectivity in Antarctic sea stars utilising a genomics approach (DNA barcoding, microsatellites and next generation sequencing) in the framework of the interdisciplinary project.

Profile of the PhD student:

Master in (marine) biology with excellent study results
Experience in genomics (lab work and bioinformatics)
Interest in the ecology and evolution of Antarctic sea stars
Excellent oral and written English skills (see here for minimal requirements)
Willingness to participate in long sampling campaigns under extreme condition in the Southern Ocean.
Obligation to finalise a doctoral thesis within 4 years

The marine biology lab offers excellent coaching in an inspiring research environment with up-to-date research facilities in the international and multilingual capital of Europe.
Interested candidates are requested to submit their application (motivation letter, two reference letters, summary of master thesis, MSc certificate with grades, proof of proficiency in English and curriculum vitae) with the subject line “RECTO PhD scholarship application” to the head of the Marine Biology Lab, Prof. Dr. Marc Kochzius ( before 17. October 2016. Expected starting date is 01. January 2017.

PhD scholarship available at the VUB, Marine Biology Lab, in the framework of the RECTO project

PhD scholarship (4 years) in molecular ecology at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Department of Biology, Marine Biology Lab, Belgium.

We are searching for a highly motivated PhD student that will work on evolution, population genetics and connectivity in Antarctic sea stars utilising a genomics approach (DNA barcoding, microsatellites and next generation sequencing) in the framework of the interdisciplinary project

Refugia and Ecosystem Tolerance in the Southern Ocean (RECTO).

Because of its long history and geographic isolation, the Southern Ocean (SO) provides a natural laboratory for research on evolution and biodiversity. Confronted with fast-paced environmental changes, biota in Antarctic ecosystems are strongly challenged and face three possible outcomes: adaptation, migration or extinction. Past glaciation periods have already forced marine zoobenthos of the SO into refugia, being either ice-free continental shelf areas, the deep sea or sub- or peri- Antarctic regions, followed by recolonization when the ice retreated. In a multidisciplinary approach and involving all major Belgian research groups studying evolution and diversity of SO faunas, RECTO will strive at understanding how such past events have driven diversification and adaptation in different animal groups and how these can be applied as proxies to understand the contemporary situation and predict future scenarios.

The Marine Biology Lab at the VUB specialises in research on molecular ecology of marine fauna from the poles to the tropics and from invertebrates to fishes. In the new collaborative research project RECTO the evolutionary history of Antarctic sea stars will be studied.

More details here: PhD scholarship advertisement

Un coup d’oeil a la biodiversite des fonds marins Antarctiques

Que faisons-nous?

Nous sommes à bord du JCR, le James Clark Ross, un navire de recherche océanographique Britannique, qui doit son nom à un explorateur polaire Anglais.


Le James Clark Ross, a Signy Island. Photo: Bruno Danis

Le but de notre mission est de faire un inventaire, une liste, de tous les animaux qui vivent au fond de la mer (on les appelle les animaux benthiques), dans la région des Orcades du Sud. Ces îles se trouvent entre l’Amérique du Sud et la Péninsule Antarctique, et nous pensons que leur biodiversité doit être protégée. Pour cela, il est important de répertorier tous les animaux qui s’y trouvent (et beaucoup n’ont pas encore été décris), avec comme idée de pouvoir revenir plus tard pour un nouvel inventaire, qui permettra de déceler des changements dûs aux changements de l’environnement.

Comment faisons-nous?

Nous sommes dans une région qui a été relativement peu explorée. La seule manière d’inventorier les animaux qui nous intéresse est de les remonter à la surface. Nous utilisons pour cela des engins semblables à ceux qui sont utilisés par les pêcheurs, mais beaucoup plus petits, pour éviter d’abîmer les fonds. Nous utilisons notamment un AGT (Agassiz Trawl – Chalut Agassiz, du nom de son inventeur) et un traîneau EBS (Epibenthic sledge), qui permet de récolter les animaux qui sont près du fond. Avant de lancer les engins de récolte, nous “scannons” le fond, à l’aide d’un SWATH (qui permet d’avoir une image 3D du fond, très précise), qui fonctionne sur le principe de l’écholocalisation, comme les dauphins ou les chauve-souris… Nous utilisons ensuite une caméra benthique, qui nous permet de prendre de belles photos du fond. Une fois certains que les conditions sont réunies, nous déployons les engins depuis le pont arrière, et déroulons les cables pour atteindre des profondeurs de 500, 750, 1000, 1500 et 2000 m.


Capture d’ecran du SWATH en action. Les couleurs sont proportionnelles a la profondeur (bleu: plus profond; rouge: moins profond). Photo: Louise Allcock.

Nous remontons ensuite les engins et trions et identifions tous les animaux, ce qui représente un travail très intense, que nous réalisons en équipe.


Lancement du chalut Agassiz depuis le pont arriere du JCR. Photo: Bruno Danis

Tri des echantillons

Une fois a bord, les echantillons sont tries dans le “WetLab”. Photo: Richard Turner

Qu’avons nous trouvé jusqu’ici?

Nous sommes à la moitié de l’expédition, et les différents endroits où nous avons travaillé (que l’on appelle des stations) montrent une diversité très différente. Certaines stations sont relativement pauvres en animaux, mais d’autres sont très riches, et nous avons probablement déjà récolté un nombre important de nouvelles espèces! Ce que nous accumulons comme information devra nous permettre de bien choisir les endroits qui doivent être protégés.


Quelques animaux recoltes au cours de la campagne. Photos: Claudio Ghiglione, Camille Moreau, Helena Wiklund, Cath Waller


Pour en savoir plus… suivez le hashtag #SoAntEco sur Twitter


Are sea urchins boring?

The Marine Biology Lab is organising a seminar next month…

Prof. Michael Russell, Villanova University, will be giving a seminar on the 8th of March ( 2PM).

The title of the seminar is:

Are sea urchins boring?

(Yes! And it is a fascinating story)

 The ‘interesting’ association between ‘boring’ sea urchins and their rocky substrates

The seminar will take place at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB),  Solbosch campus, room UC2.236 (building U, door C 2nd floor).
Looking forward to meeting you there!