Time has passed very quickly since the 11th International Polychaete Conference (IPC) hosted at the Australian Museum in 2013 and its organizers, AMRI polychaete scientists Pat Hutchings and Elena Kupriyanova, now traveled to Europe to teach taxonomy courses and to participate in the next, 12th IPC held in Cardiff, Wales held in August 2016 at National Museum of Wales.

Dr Elena Kupriyanova ran a course as a part of European summer's taxonomy school at the Marine Ecological Surveys LtD (MESL) in Bath, England, UK. The two day identification course focused on calcareous tubeworm (family Serpulidae) identification and non-native serpulids in Europe was a huge success. It was attended by 13 people, which included MESL staff as well as participants from other UK marine consultancies and interested non-professionals. The course enabled participants to gain experience and develop confidence in the identification of species belonging to this group. Dr Kupriyanova gave several talks on the life history, morphology and identification of serpulids as well as non-native species and the economic implications of invasive species. The main focus of the course was microscope work, allowing participants to work through specimens at their own pace. The participants had a great time examining specimens collected around the world that Elena had brought with her from the AM Marine Invertebrates collection and familiarizing themselves with new fauna. Participants also brought along their own specimens for advice on identification.

Meanwhile Dr Pat Hutchings ran a week long course on terebellid identification at the Université de Caen Basse-Normandie in France from the 18th to 22nd of July. This workshop was part of series on various groups of marine organisms which the French institution organises annually. It was attended by 25 participants from marine labs in Normandy, Brittany, and Museum D’Histoire Naturelle in Paris, ranging from postgraduate students to well established workers. Pat presented a series of lectures on each of the newly erected terebellid families within what used to be known as a single polychaete family Terebellidae. She explained the characters useful to distinguish among these families as well as among species within each family. Students then would go back to the lab to check out either freshly collected specimens or material brought along by the participants. Pat stressed that while keys to polychaetes from France were available, they were published back in 1923 and 1927, thus much this region’s fauna, especially from deeper waters of this the French coast, still needs to be described.

Dr Pat Hutchings, Polychaete expert

Dr Pat Hutchings, AMRI Senior Fellow and Polychaete expert.

Image: Stuart Humphreys
© Australian Museum

Apart from enjoying the week with evening meals in local restaurants and a wonderful farewell banquet in the famous Museum des Beaux Arts in Caen, Pat has had the opportunity to build her research network. She is currently describing a new species of Marphysa. In France this species had always been referred to as M. sanguineaMontague originally described from Devon UK. After sequencing some specimens, Nicolas Thiercelin, one of workshop participants, noticed that the sequences did not agree with previously published ones of M. sanguinea. So he shipped some French specimens to Sydney and is joining forces with Pat in preparing to describe this new species. Another participant has also sent some material of this new species to help determining its distribution range. This face to face contact is really important and can really help to impart one’s enthusiasm for the group to the next generation of polychaete workers, and to those ecologists who have to identify polychaetes as part of benthic studies.

On Sunday August 1 Pat and Elena reunited in Cardiff, Wales to participate in the 12th International Polychaete Conference held at National Museum of Wales. They presented a joint poster (along with Dr Shane Ahyong and their PhD student Yanan Sun) on the European sabellid fan worm Sabella spallanzanii that recently extended its invasive range northward to Botany Bay. Pat chaired a session and presented a paper on so-called cosmopolitan species, and was a co-author on five other posters. Elena presented a talk on importance of integrative taxonomy for understanding of invasive polychaetes and, along with Yanan Sun, a poster on phylogeography of an important invasive and fouling worm Hydroides dianthus, while Yanan gave a talk about mitochondrial genome rearrangements in calcareous tubeworms. At the conference dinner Pat Hutchings was presented an award in recognition of her contribution to polychaete studies and the fact that she was the one who initiated in the inaugural conference in 1983. Australia was well represented at the conference: in addition to Pat, Lena, and Yanan, there were Chris Glasby and Charlotte Watson from MAGNT, Hannelore Paxton from MQ, Pat’s PhD student Aria Lee, and environment consultant Linda Avery. It has been decided that the 13th IPC will be held in Long Beach, California in 2019.

After the conference Elena Kupriyanova also travelled to Oban, Scotland where she was invited to give a seminar on her deep-sea polychaete research at Scottish Association of Marine Sciences (SAMS).

Dr Pat Hutchings, AMRI Senior Fellow
Dr Elena Kupriyanova, AMRI Senior Research Scientist