Dr Elena (Lena) Kupriyanova and her team from the “Worm Lab” (Marine Invertebrates) have been busy during this lockdown period. Have a look at what our scientists have been up to …

The “Worm Lab” successfully maintained connectivity and has been very busy during the lockdown; we have been submitting and publishing our research, collaborating with our domestic and overseas colleagues and developing a digital key.

The major focus of our research has recently been on deep-sea worms. We are currently finalising the manuscript documenting previously unknown biodiversity of annelids from the RV Investigator “Sampling the Abyss” 2017 voyage – the first dedicated research voyage to the eastern Australian abyss (down to 4800 m). The resultant research of this voyage was a massive undertaking, involving an international team of 30 collaborators from 18 institutions in 11 countries. This project is being led and co-ordinated by our Biodiversity Chadwick Fellow, Dr Laetitia Gunton. All ‘Worm Wizards of Oz' from Sydney, Darwin and Melbourne, including our Australian Museum Senior Fellows Anna Murray, Pat Hutchings and Research Associate Dr Hannelore Paxton, are involved in this project contributing descriptions of numerous new species of the abyss. Two species of the family Pectinariidae (ice-cream cone worms) from this voyage have been already described in a publication in Zootaxa, led by our Chinese research visitor Jinguai Zhang (from South China Sea Environmental Monitoring Center in Guangzhou), who spent 2018 in our lab. Two more species from the family Sabellariidae will be described in an upcoming publication in the same journal. Laetitia and Lena recently submitted to Records of the Australian Museum a manuscript describing two new species the family Ampharetidae, one named after a private donor Rickard Gardell and another after Clarence Earl Chadwick, benefactor of the Chadwick fellowship. Hannelore Paxton and her Spanish colleague Andrés Arias have submitted a manuscript reporting the first record of the rare deep-sea polychaete Rhamphobrachium agassizii in European waters to the Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the U.K.

Laetitia recently delivered the first online AMRI seminar over Microsoft Teams to colleagues across the museum discussing the large collaborative annelid project and recent deep-sea expeditions.

Dr Laetitia Gunton

Dr Laetitia Gunton aboard the RV Investigator, in 2018.

Image: CSIRO

Dr Laetitia Gunton’s presentation

A screenshot from Dr Laetitia Gunton’s presentation at the AM.

Image: Dr Laetitia Gunton
© Australian Museum

Before the lockdown, we had a very large and friendly lab full of research visitors – although our lab may not be full at this time, we are continuing to collaborate with our many colleagues. Unfortunately, Pat Hutchings’ French PhD student, Nicolas Lavesque, and his partner Cerise Daffe (both from French National Centre for Scientific Research, University of Bordeaux) who had been here since October 2019, had to return to France. However, we continue to collaborate despite the distance and disruption, and we are happy to report that yet another paper has just been accepted by Zootaxa on the families Thelepodidae and Telothelepodidae (in which three new species are described) and another on Polycirridae (describing seven new species) is about to be submitted. Lena, Cerise and Yanan Sun (Lena’s former PhD student who spent 4 years at Australian Museum) are preparing a paper on mitochondrial genomes of important invasive annelid species. Our visiting Polish PhD student Robert Sobczyk (from University of Lodz), who only arrived in February to work on the deep-sea polynoids (scaleworms that are very common in the deep sea), went back home after the lockdown here started, but he hopes to return next year. Meanwhile, Pat’s PhD student from Spain who is enrolled at Macquarie University, Jorge Rodriguez Monter, is writing up his thesis on flatworms at home.

Calioplana marginata from Minnie Water and Diggers Camp, one of the flatworms studied by Jorge

Calioplana marginata from Minnie Water and Diggers Camp, one of the flatworms studied by Jorge.

Image: Elizabeth Hardaker
© Elizabeth Hardaker

Our research on bait worms is also coming into fruition. Pat has recently published a paper on the connectivity of beach worms along the NSW coast; the study demonstrates that the worm populations on surf beaches are all connected, although the mechanism is still obscure. They do not have planktonic larvae and may rely on the eastern Australian oceanic currents to maintain this connectivity. This has important implications for management of this fish bait, which is prized by recreational fishers. Continuing with the bait worm theme, Pat, Nicolas Lavesque and Dr Chris Glasby (visiting researcher from MAGNT in Darwin) in addition with Indian colleagues, submitted a paper to Zootaxa on Marphysa, a polychaete genus that has been widely misidentified around world.

Lena, Dr Yanan Sun (her former PhD student), Dr Eunice Wong (her former AM technical officer), and Lena’s long-term collaborator Dr Harry ten Hove (Naturalis Biodiversity Centre in the Netherlands) are well into the process of writing a book (to be published by CSIRO Publishing in 2021) on the calcareous tubeworm genus Hydroides. The book is based on Yanan’s PhD thesis which was supported by an ABRS grant to Lena and Pat. This book will be the first comprehensive, illustrated world-wide review of taxonomy, ecology and phylogeography of an important genus that contains numerous fouling and invasive species.

Variable opercula of Hydroides, the most important diagnostic character of the genus

Variable opercula of Hydroides, the most important diagnostic character of the genus.

Image: Eunice Wong & Yanan Sun
© Eunice Wong & Yanan Sun

Lena, Pat, Chris Glasby, Ingo Burghardt and Robin Wilson (from Museums Victoria in Melbourne) are continuing with developing Annikey, an interactive digital key to annelids of the world. Anna Murray continues to collaborate with Robin Wilson on an interactive key to the world species of scaleworms, including the families Polynoidae, Aphroditidae, Acoetidae, and Sigalionidae. Lena is in charge of the key to the family Serpulidae (calcareous tubeworms), and Pat is responsible for the family Terebellidae (spaghetti worms), while Chris Glasby does the key to all annelid families. Supported by an ABRS grant, we were planning to road test the Annikey during a workshop in July associated with AMSA annual conference; unfortunately, the conference has been postponed until July 2021. While we have all been busy, we are really looking forward to coming back into the museum to be able to work through the images needed to illustrate Annikey.

Dr Elena (Lena) Kupriyanova, Senior Research Scientist, Marine Invertebrates, Australian Museum Research Institute.

Dr Pat Hutchings, Senior Fellow, Marine Invertebrates, Australian Museum Research Institute.

Further information:

  • O'Hara, T. 2017. IN2017_V03 Voyage summary: Sampling the abyss: latitudinal biodiversity patterns along the base of Australia’s eastern continental margin. CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere.
  • Gunton, L. (2020) AMRI Seminar: Discovering the biological diversity of Tasmania's underwater mountains and associated worms. https://youtu.be/3Y8Mlg9th9Q.
  • Lavesque, N., Londono-Mesa, M., Daffe, G., & Hutchings, P. In press. A revision of the French Telothelepodidae and Thelepodidae (Polychaeta) with descriptions of three and the first European record of as non-indigenous species. Zootaxa.
  • Padovan, A., Chick, R.C., Cole, V.J., Dutoit, L., Hutchings, P.A., Jack, C., Fraser, C.I. 2020. Genomic analyses suggest strong population connectivity over large spatial scales of the commercially important baitworm. Australonuphis teres (Onuphidae) Marine and Freshwater Research https://doi.org/10.1071/MF20044.
  • Zhang, J., Hutchings, P. & Kupriyanova, E. 2019. A revision of the genus Petta (Polychaeta, Pectinariidae), with two new species from the abyss of south-eastern Australia, and comments on phylogeny of the family. Zootaxa 4614 (2): 303–330.
  • Zhang, J., Hutchings, P., Burghardt, I. & Kupriyanova, E. In press. Two new species of Sabellariidae (Annelida, Polychaeta) from the abyss of eastern Australia. Zootaxa.