SOAP Circum-Antarctic Polychaete workshopSOAP Circum-Antarctic Polychaete workshop

SOAP Circum-Antarctic Polychaete Workshop

Report from the Circum-Antarctic Polychaete Workshop SOAP (Southern Ocean Annelid Project) 8-12 March, 2010 Marine Biological Laboratory and Swope Center, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, USA



During the 9th International Polychaete Conference (2007) in Portland, Maine (USA), the need for a polychaete workshop dealing with species of the Southern Ocean became apparent. Especially young scientsts at the beginning of their career repeatedly expressed an interest in an opportunity to deepen their taxonomic expertise. Likewise, the first CeDAMar workshop on polychaetes APIP (Abyssal Polychaete Inter-calibration Project) in London had proven that exchange and communication among senior scientists was extremely productive and a repeated effort was desirable and promising. As part of the International Polar Year, the biodiversity of the benthic fauna around the Antarctic Continent was one of the major subjects of biological research projects. CeDAMar scientists, together with experts from the Census of Antarctic Marine Life (CAML) planned and implemented a joint expedition to explore the fate of a plankton bloom and its influence on benthic flux on the abyssal seafloor. Taxonomic information from this cruise became part of the CAML database. The positive collaboration  between scientists from both CoML field projects resulted in a jointly financed circum-Antarctic polychaete workshop. The Southern Ocean hosts a diverse polychaete fauna. Over 700 named species have been recorded for Antarctica’s shelf, slope and deep-sea benthos. Additionally, every new sample taken yields around 30% new, unknown species. The distribution of polychaetes is as variable as the group itself; however, two distribution patterns seem to dominate:


·          endemic species with narrow bathymetric tolerance

·          circum-Antarctic species with pronounced eurybathy


Despite the high abundance of polychaetes in benthic samples, taxonomic knowledge on the group is limited to few, often highly specialized, scientists. A missing exchange of sample material and species lists between specialists and the morphological complexity exacerbating the identification of species for the untrained eye have probably strongly biased the reported distribution ranges of Southern Ocean polychaetes due to numerous misidentifications and inconsistent naming of morphotypes.


 Activities during the workshop

As far as it was feasible under the currently difficult conditions, established taxonomists as well as early career benthologists provided samples from various expeditions to the Southern Ocean, including both newly sampled material and museum collections. The largest amount of material came from two U.S. American collections that did not have to be shipped from abroad. These collections, several decades old and very diverse and abundant, highlighted the richness of life in the Southern Ocean as well as the on-going and growing need for experienced taxonomists with long-term employment allowing them to turn these uncatalogued collections into widely accessible data. One to two lectures on selected families were given each day, introducing the main morphological characters, unresolved questions of the systematics of the group, and practical help to discriminate species. Images of new and already described species from the Southern Ocean assigned to that particular family were presented.Generally each lecture was followed by one or several “classes” in taxonomy for the younger scientists, each lasting half a day. Pertinent material was examined from the participants’ own collections and/or U.S. American collections provided by James Blake. During more informal sessions at the microscopes taking place when there was no need for training classes, senior specialists exchanged material and ideas on the classification and identification of new species. Some participans took advantage of the SEM facilities. Results of the day were compiled each night. During the last day of the workshop, an overview of the results led to a discussion about where to go from there. Several products were suggested to share results with the wider scientific community and the general public.


Results and products


One of the goals of the workshop was to shed light on distributional patterns in Southern Ocean polychaetes. A large database on over 6000 records of about 650 known polychaete species from the Southern Ocean was submitted to SCAR-MarBIN at the beginning of the workshop by Myriam Schüller. Range extensions identified during the workshop and new records of known genera or species will be compiled by Myriam Schüller as well and submitted to SCAR-MarBIN in the required format in May. Spreadsheets were distributed to all participants to enter their data. The number of new species discovered during the few days of the workshop was impressing. All of these will be described formally and published in 2011 or the beginning of 2012 in a special volume of Zootaxa. Aside from new species and new records of genera and species, a great number of known species were identified by senior specialists that will add to the SCAR-MarBIN database. Especially in the scale worms there are several systematic issues that will be solved through collaboration between a group of workshop participants. Their findings will be part of the Zootaxa special volume. First results of this workshop will be presented very shortly at the 10th Polychaete Conference in Lecce in June 2010. A poster is going to be put together by Brigitte Ebbe with contributions from all workshop participants. The generally identified need to have more workshops like this one will also be discussed during the Polychaete Conference in Lecce.


Contributions to E0L


Species pages for two or three polychaete species will be prepared by each participant through the use of the new lifedesk feature. The workshop greatly benefitted from a guest presentation by David Shorthouse arranged by Jesse Ausubel who visited the workshop on the last day.

Organising Committee


Brigitte Ebbe (Senckenberg Institute)

Maria Cristina Gambi (Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn)

Kerstin Kröger (NIWA)

Myriam Schüller (Ruhr-Universität Bochum) 


On-site Committee


James A. Blake (Aecom Marine and Coastal Center)

Stacy Doner (Aecom Marine and Coastal Center)

Judith Taylor (Marine Biological Laboratory)


Invited Speakers


Ruth Barnich, Senckenberg Institute (Polynoidae) Maria Cristina Gambi, Stazione Zoologica Napoli, (Sabellidae, together with Adriana Giangrande) Adriana Giangrande, University of Lecce (Sabellidae, together with Maria Cristina Gambi) Adrian Glover, Natural History Museum (Osedax) Helena Wiklund, Sweden (Dorvilleidae)

Stacy Doner, AECOM (Cirratulidae)

James A. Blake, AECOM (Orbiniidae)

Myriam Schüller, University of Bochum (Ampharetidae, Trichobranchidae)

Pat Hutchings, Australian Museum (Terebellidae)

Beatriz Yanez, UNAM (Amphinomidae, Euphrosinidae) 


Other Participants


Lenka Nealova (NHM)

Kerstin Kroeger (NIWA) [Ross Sea Polychaeta]

Geoff Read (NIWA) [WoRMS and EOL]

Pavica Srsen (UHawaii) [Foodbancs]

Maria Ana Tovar (UNAM, Mazatlan)

Eulogio Soto (Chile) [Polychaeta of Patagonia]

Sergio Taboada (Barcelona) [Weddell Sea Polychaeta]

Americo Montiel (UPunta Arenas) 


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