by | May 25, 2021 | 0 comments

Barcoding the Antarctic One Invertebrate at a Time

The icy waters of the Antarctic’s Southern Ocean may seem inhospitable, but they are teeming with life! Now, thanks to Northeastern University Professor Bill Detrich and former OGL scientist Annie Evankow, OGL is sharing some of that spectacular marine diversity with the research world.  

A consummate scientist and explorer, Professor Detrich has made more than 20 research expeditions to the Southern Ocean over the past 40 years. On one of his trips aboard the US Research Vessel Laurence M. Gould, he and his postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Jacob Daane, trawled for benthic life along the Antarctic Peninsula. They collected a variety of marine invertebrates, including sea stars, sea cucumbers, and octopuses, and donated the nearly 50 species to OGL. 

That’s when Annie Evankow stepped in. Evankow, now a researcher at the University of Oslo, worked tirelessly to add those specimens and their DNAs to OGL’s collections. She and research technician Dave Stein then sequenced a small piece of the genome of each specimen called the DNA barcode segment. Every species has a slightly different version of this gene segment, so scientists can use its sequence like a grocery store barcode to identify and track species, and to learn about their biology and behavior.  

But Evankow did not stop there. To make sure that her work had the greatest impact, she deposited her sequences to the publicly available BOLD database so that, as she puts it, “Anyone anywhere can access [them] and incorporate [them] into their research project.” The information that scientists like Detrich and Evankow contribute to public databases is critical to many different types of research, from identifying food to studying interactions between species. 

The collection features a diverse array of sea stars from five different families, including Odontasteridae (left) and Goniasteridae (right). [photo credit: Jacob Daane] 

Sadly, climate change is already having a dramatic effect on Antarctica, and it will continue to do so—but the samples and data that Detrich and Evankow have generously shared will make it easier for scientists to study and protect this fascinating ecosystem. 

Curious about the Antarctic samples? Search for “ANTRC” here and learn more about this project! 

Want to help OGL collect genetic information to aid scientific research worldwide? Support OGL here


The Wacky Underwater World 

What animal lives more than 250 years but never eats a thing? If you guessed the deep-sea tubeworm Escarpia laminata, you would be correct—and also probably a deep-sea biologist!   Escarpia laminata lives near deep-sea cold seeps, places where methane...

OGL publishes a new paper—about itself!

Have you ever wondered what goes on at the Ocean Genome Legacy Center? If so, you are not alone.   We frequently receive questions such as: Who can use OGL’s collections? What is in them? Where do the samples come from? How do I contact and work with OGL? To answer...

Nightmare fuel from the sea

It is Halloween again, and time for us to dress up and terrify our neighbors! Let’s look at the winners of this year’s spookiest creatures of the deep blue sea! Second place—Chondrocladia verticillata What if SpongeBob developed a taste for fresh meat? The answer is...

Meet OGL’s new faces—and their new projects!

This month, OGL is welcoming a new postdoctoral fellow and two new co-op students! Did you know that some bacteria stab their competitors with poison darts? In her PhD research at UNC Chapel Hill, Dr. Lauren Speare showed how glowing symbionts use this strategy to...

New Tools for Teachers

Science teachers are awesome! Middle and high school teachers are on the front lines of science education, teaching a generation that not only can save our planet, but must. To do our small part to help these heroes, Ocean Genome Legacy and the Outreach Program at...