Short news from DDU

The acidification experiment on the sea urchins is now running rather smoothly. An aquarium system has been set up and the Aquatronica material is doing a very good job for controlling the pH. The first results indicate that Sterechinus neumayeri is reacting very quickly to acidification: the acid-base balance of the inner fluid is already controlled after 4 days of progressive decrease of the sea water pH. This supports the hypothesis emitted in our previous work on Antarctic sea urchins and published in Global Change Biology (Collard et al. 2014, GCB doi: 10.1111/gcb.12735 )

vERSO Team arrives at DDU

The vERSO team has finally arrived at the Dumont D’Urville station (Terre Adélie, Antarctica), after crossing the Southern Ocean onboard the IPEV’s RV Astrolabe. Here are their first impressions (translated from French):

“I’m finally installed at the Dumont d’Urville (DDU) station in Terre Adélie, part of the  “Terres Australes et antarctiques françaises” (TAAFs).

It took me 13 days to get their:  2,5 days in the planes, 4 days waiting in Hobart (Tasmania) awaiting the fixing of the ship’s generator, and 6 days at sea, on one of the most unconfortable ships I’ve ever been onboard, the Astrolabe. Even if the weather was good, the ship would roll, up to 35° on both sides! When you’re in such a roller coaster, the only things you can do is avoid getting sea sick and trying not to bang yourself everywhere… Little sleep, as we are constantly rolling from one side to the other in our berths. On the bright side, beautiful albatrosses are following us along the way.

Once arrived at DDU, the transfer to the station is carried out using helicopters, the sea ice extending up to 28km from the station. The helicopter carry the equipement (up to 1T per rotation). After two days, we were able to gather our personal equipment and part of our research and diving gear.

Firs sounding show that the sea ice thickness in the places where we are planning to dive is around  2 to 3m!

The station is located in a beautiful area, where I meet Adélie penguins, fulmars and snow petrels every day. From my room, I have a view on the continental glacier (l’Astrolabe) and on penguin colonies (noisy and smelly!). The logistics here are impressive, and we received a lot of lab space. We still need to find a solution to bring sea water to the container where we will be running acidification experiments in controlled conditions. Our only fear now is that time is flying by extremely quickly!

Wishing you the best for the end of the year,



Leaving South, part I: Dumont D’Urville

Last week, Philippe Dubois headed South, on an expedition to the Dumont D’Urville station, managed by the french IPEV. Together with Loïc Michel, from the University of Liège, the team will be running ecophysiology experiments and collecting samples for trophic networks analysis, in the framework of the vERSO project. Once they have reached the station (see their current location here), Philippe and Loïc will be diving under 3m of ice to access the samples they will need to work.

We’re expecting news soon, and will be posting photos and other material as we receive it!

You can find more information about the vERSO project on the dedicated website.


New paper in Advances in Polar Science

A new paper by lead author Angelika Brandt was recently published in Advances in Polar Sciences. The paper addresses the main issues faced in the framework of deep-sea biodiversity monitoring:

Despite recent progress in deep-sea biodiversity assessments in the Southern Ocean (SO), there remain gaps in our knowledge that hamper efficient deep-sea monitoring in times of rapid climate change. These include geographical sampling bias, depth and size-dependent faunal gaps in biology, ecology, distribution, and phylogeography, and the evolution of SO species. The phenomena of species patchiness and rarity are still not well understood, possibly because of our limited understanding of physiological adaptations and thresholds. Even though some shallow water species have been investigated physiologically, community-scale studies on the effects of multiple stressors related to ongoing environmental change, including temperature rise, ocean acidification, and shifts in deposition of phytoplankton, are completely unknown for deep-sea organisms. Thus, the establishment of long-term and coordinated monitoring programs, such as those rapidly growing under the umbrella of the Southern Ocean Observing System (SOOS) or the Deep Ocean Observing Strategy (DOOS), may represent unique tools for measuring the status and trends of deep-sea and SO ecosystems.

Citation: Brandt, A., Griffiths, H., Gutt, J., Linse, K., Ballerini, T., Danis, B., & Pfannkuche, O. (2014). Challenges of deep-sea biodiversity assessments in the Southern Ocean. Advances in Polar Sciences, 25(3), 204–212. doi:10.13679/j.advps.2014.3.00204

The SCAR Biogeographic Atlas of the Southern Ocean


The SCAR Biogeographic Atlas of the Southern Ocean has been officially launched at the SCAR Open Science Conference in Auckland, New Zealand. The Marine Biology Lab of the ULB has been heavily involved in the effort, mainly in the edition, data mobilization and writing of the book.

You can download the first chapter of the Atlas as a preview.

Below is the press release, as prepared by the British Antarctic Survey.

The new Atlas, providing the most thorough audit of marine life in the Southern Ocean, is published this week by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR). Leading marine biologists and oceanographers from all over the world spent the last four years compiling everything they know about ocean species from microbes to whales.

It’s the first time that such an effort has been undertaken since 1969 when the American Society of Geography published its Antarctic Map Folio Series.

In an unprecedented international collaboration 147 scientists from 91 institutions across 22 countries (Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, the UK and the USA) combined their expertise and knowledge to produce the new Biogeographic Atlas of the Southern Ocean.

More than 9000 species are recorded, ranging from microbes to whales. Hundreds of thousands of records show the extent of scientific knowledge on the distribution of life in the Southern Ocean. In 66 chapters, the scientists examine the evolution, physical environment, genetics and possible impact of climate change on marine organisms in the region.

Chief editor, Claude De Broyer, of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, said:

“This is the first time that all the records of the unique Antarctic marine biodiversity, from the very beginnings of Antarctic exploration in the days of Captain Cook, have been compiled, analysed and mapped by the scientific community. It has resulted in a comprehensive atlas and an accessible database of useful information on the conservation of Antarctic marine life.”

The data, and expert opinions, in the Atlas will help inform conservation policy, including the debate over whether or not to establish marine protected areas in the open ocean. Sophisticated environmental models coupled with existing species distribution data provide a valuable outlook on the possible future distribution of key species as they adapt to climate change.

New advances in genetics have shed light on some of the best known species from the Antarctic sea floor. The giant isopod crustacean Glyptonotus antarcticus is one of those. The animal lives on the edge of the continent at depths of up to 600 metres. Previously considered to be a single species with a circumpolar distribution, molecular barcoding suggests it may, in reality, be a group with up to eleven species inhabiting much smaller geographic regions.

Author, and editor, Huw Griffiths, of the British Antarctic Survey, said:

“The book is unique and contains an amazing collection of information and photos. It’s been an enormous international effort and will serve as a legacy to the dedicated team of scientists who have contributed to it. The Atlas is a must-read for anyone interested in the animals living at the end of the Earth.”

The Atlas contains around 100 colour photos and 800 maps. It will be launched at the SCAR 2014 Open Science Conference in Auckland, New Zealand on Monday 25th August.

BIOMAR Lab hosting mARS workshop

This week, we are hosting another workshop to scope out the next steps for the Microbial Antarctic Resources System (mARS) , a followup project from SCAR’s Expert Group on Antarctic Biodiversity Informatics (EG-ABi).

The participants include Alison Murray (Desert Research Institute), Anton Van de Putte (, Nabil Youdjou ( and Bruno Danis (Marine Biology Lab). PhD students from the CCAMBIO project also attended, as beta-testers.

The Microbial Antarctic Resources System (mARS) is envisioned as an information system dedicated to facilitate the discovery, access and analysis of geo-referenced, molecular microbial diversity (meta)data generated by Antarctic researchers, in an Open fashion. The scope of diversity will encompass all freel-living and host-associated virus, Bacteria, Archaea, and singled-celled Eukarya.

mARS focuses on past, present and future works. It offers a community-driven platform for scientists to publish, document, analyse and share their (meta)data with the broad community for science, conservation and management purposes, in the spirit of the Antarctic Treaty.

This week, we will  be beta-testing the mARS to take it to Step 3, as described in our vision document.

BIOMAR Lab hosting dBASO workshop


This week, we will be hosting an international workshop to scope out the new dynamic Biogeographic Atlas of the Southern Ocean (dBASO), a followup project of SCAR’s Biogeographic Atlas of the Southern Ocean.

At the end of five years of extensive biodiversity exploration and assessment by CAML and the OBIS Antarctic Node (the SCAR Marine Biodiversity Information Network), a new initiative, the multi-authored “SCAR Biogeographic Atlas of the Southern Ocean”, has been established under the aegis of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) to provide an up-to-date synthesis of Antarctic and sub-Antarctic biogeographic knowledge and to make available a new comprehensive online resource for visualisation, analysis and modelling of species distribution. It will constitute a major scientific output of CAML and SCAR-MarBIN as well as being a significant legacy of CoML and the International Polar Year to fulfill the needs of biogeographic information for science, conservation, monitoring and sustainable management of the changing Southern Ocean. It will be of direct benefit to the Antarctic Treaty and associated bodies such as the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.

Ten participants from 5 countries (Australia, France, Italy, United Kingdom, Belgium) will be working on the initial development steps to make dBASO go live.



Internship at STRI

During the last months of 2013, a PhD student of our lab (Quentin Jossart) went to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama. This work was done in the laboratory of Dr Harilaos Lessios that has a deal of experience with sea-urchins genetics.

The work focused mainly on genetic analysis and especially on the characterization of microsatellite loci (highly polymorphic nuclear markers) for the burrowing sea-urchin Meoma ventricosa. In addition to genetics, several samplings were done in the central part (Portobello) and west part (Bocas del Toro, picture on the top) of the country in order to complete the genetic data set.

The main goal of this project is to evaluate the genetic structure of M. ventricosa inside the Caribbean Sea. Moreover, this structure could be compared to the pattern observed for a parasite of M. ventricosa. This comparison could help for revealing the factors that influence the dispersal in the Caribbean.

Meoma ventricosa (picture:

Portman- ROV Sampling Gallery


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This gallery contains the pictures we extracted from the video transects that  we operated in Portman (Spain, 2013).  Each picture is a support for a Bay’ species cartography work.

Please Do not hesitate to contact me for any question/doubt about our identifications or to notice any specie you could identify on the pictures

From 17/10/2013 to the 24/10/2013 we captured some video transects of shallow benthic habitats encountered within or close to the bay of Portmàn (Murcia, Spain), which is subject to a strong pollution by metallic compounds due to an old mining activity. The following pictures, extracted from these video transects were used to fill species’ distribution files that sould be available for the whole scientific community through an online portail (Link).  Thus this post aims to provide a visual support relative to this occurrence file, but is also open for suggestions about identifications that are not already tagged on the pictures and that would increase our data about species distribution.   You might see some identifications relative to the class, family or genus. It is relative to individuals that we could not identify to the specie level ( we limit our identifications to the lowest taxonomic rank that we are undoubted about).

Anemonia viridis

Anemonia viridis


Anemonia viridis

Anemonia viridis


Anemonia viridis – Echinoidea



Paracentrotus lividus – Echinoidea


Paracentrotus lividus


Echinoidea – Paracentrotus lividus – Padina povonica


Padina pavonica


Paracentrotus lividus – Echinoidea

Pina nobilis

Pinna nobilis

Posidonia Oceanica

Posidonia oceanica

Echinaster sepositus

Echinaster sepositus


Ophidiaster ophidianus


Corallina sp – Echinoidea


Pinna nobilis – dictyota sp.










Paracentrotus lividus


Maxillopoda – Paracentrotus lividus






Anemonia viridis – Echinoidea








Paracentrotus lividus


Codium bursa


Caulerpa racemosa – Echinaster sepositus


Spongia officilanis


Halimeda tuna – Echinaster sepositus


Arbacia lixula


Echinaster sepositus – Halimeda tuna – Padina pavonica


Paracentrotus lividus




Paracentrotus lividus


Holothuria sanctori




Corallinna sp. – Paracentrotus lividus


Eunicella sp.



Echinaster sepositus – Halimeda tuna – Padina pavonica



Paracentrotus lividus – Corallina sp.


Anemonia viridis



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