The Beagle is back to Tahiti

A TV team from the Netherlands has reproduced the Beagle ship and they travel all around the world this year on the tracks of Charles Darwin and meet scientists everywhere Darwin stopped during his trip. They aim to show how Darwin influenced his time and how his theories are still tested and confirmed 200 years later. During their stop in Tahiti, they decided to focus on the Biocode project and will do a 35 minutes episode named “Google species” released on February 21st.  The Moorea Biocode team was happy to spend 3 days with them on the field and in the lab and hope that they leave Moorea with great footages! Check out their website on:


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Vetea in DC

Vetea, from the Moorea Biocode team, left the island to join the Smithonian Biocode team in Washington DC. He will work on DNA sequencing and trouble shooting for 2 months. We hope that the thermal shock is not too rough!

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Tetiaroa expedition (by Maya DeVries)

BioCode collectors traveled to the Tetiaroa Atoll to conduct a preliminary survey of the atoll’s biodiversity.  The majority of the collectors were undergraduates from UC Berkeley’s tropical biology course.  The students worked to achieve two main goals.  First, they collected as many animals in the lagoon and on land as they possibly could, so that they could later identify the animals and compare them to Mo'orea’s fauna back at the BioCode lab.  Second, they collected plant specimens in a 50x50m plot and brought them back to the BioCode lab where the samples are awaiting DNA sequencing results. Assuming that the plants on Tetiaroa are the same as those on Mo’orea, the students will be able to identify the Tetiaroa flora by comparing the DNA sequences from Tetiaroa’s plants to DNA sequences from plants on Mo’orea.  This study is one of the first to test the power of the BioCode’s genetic database.  One of the main goals of BioCode is to have a complete database of genetic sequences from all of Mo’orea’s organisms.  This database will allow researchers in the future to be able to identify organisms by matching the sequences of organisms that they collect to sequences of animals that are already in the database.

The adventure began with a very rough boat ride out to the atoll. But, all seasickness melted away when the crew saw a humpback whale swimming near the atoll’s barrier reef.  Once on the island, the collectors set pitfall traps and bucket traps on Motu Honuea to capture insects.  They also collected sediment from the lagoon and took photos of marine animals to document the marine fauna.  The students were lucky to be able to stay overnight at an eco-lodge currently under construction on Motu Onetahi.  That night, the seas became even more rough than the day before and threatened to keep the group on the island for another night!  But with the help of construction workers from the eco-lodge and many trips between the lagoon and the fishing boats awaiting the students on the other side of the reef, everyone made it safely onto the fishing boats and back to Mo'orea.

Back at the Gump Research Station, the students identified all of the animals and prepared the plant specimens for DNA analysis. April Yang helped to photograph and prepare the insects for DNA analysis. The students are now anxiously awaiting the DNA sequencing results from their hard work on Tetiaroa.

“Hermit crab from photo collection” (photo by Alex Title): one of the hermit crabs that Alex Title photographed for future identification.

“Boat ride to Tetiaroa” (photo by Maria Zizka): two fearless fishing boats took the students on a wavy ride out to Tetiaroa.

“Planning the collecting” (photo by Maya deVries): The collectors await instructions on how to collect samples.

Meeting the Alis (by Seabird McKeon)

Two of the most active Invertebrate teams in the world had a chance to collaborate over the last few days.  The R.V. Alis, and a team from Paris Museum led by Dr. Phillip Bouchet arrived in the Society Islands to do surveys of the deep-water fauna.   The Biocode Marine Invertebrate team, led by Dr. Gustav Paulay was invited to use the samples to further the efforts to understand the fauna of French Polynesia.  The first day held surprises for everyone as the deep-water dredges came back on board with a sparse but novel fauna.

Among the finds were a hermit crab that has just about lost its shell: it wears a miniscule clam to cover its miniaturized abdomen.  In its crab-like shape, this new species is unlike any other hermit known. Other hermit crabs collected do not use a shell for covering their abdomen, but instead are covered by zoanthids (a cnidarian related to anemones and corals).   Other treasures were several deep-water sea cucumbers unknown from the area which will be useful in FLMNH's efforts to genetically sequence and understand the relationships in this enigmatic group of echinoderms.

2008 Algae expedition


L’équipe algue, composée de 4 participants (Claude Payri, Jean Louis Menou, Lydiane Mattio, et Antoine N'Yeurt) était présente à Moorea d'octobre à décembre 2008. Le but de l'expédition était d'inventorier la flore marine et récolter les macro-espèces (pluricellulaires et > 5 mm) des récifs et lagons de Moorea. Au cours de la mission, 45 stations ont été prospectées et géoréférencée par GPS. Dans chaque station, les spécimens rencontrés ont été récoltés et si possible photographiés in situ. Les récoltes ont été conservées le temps de la plongée dans des sachets plastiques et maintenues au frais jusqu’au retour au laboratoire. Au cours d’une journée type 2 à 3 récoltes sont effectuées entre la surface et 50 m de profondeur ; les récoltes ont été faites principalement en scaphandre autonome à l’air et Nitrox pour assurer une meilleure désaturation en phase de décompression.

Durant la mission, 1193 planches d’herbier ont été réalisées. La plupart des taxons sont représentés par au moins trois planches d’herbier. Au terme de l’étude les taxons ont été répartis en trois collections qui ont été déposées à UC (collection phycologique de Berkeley, USA), UPF (collection phycologique de L’université de la Polynésie française, Tahiti) et PC (Muséum de Paris). Pour certains groupes d’espèces un quatrième lot de spécimens a été déposé du centre IRD de Nouméa (NOU-IRD). La collection déposée à UC constitue la collection de référence pour les analyses de barre-code.

Durant cette expédition, 221 taxons ont été identifiés dont 193 au rang spécifique soit 87% de l’inventaire. Les 13% restant sont des taxons non identifiés en raison soit de l’absence de critères nécessaires à la reconnaissance spécifique soit il s’agit d’espèces non décrites et nouvelles pour la science. Ces espèces se répartissent entre les trois grandes divisions Rhodophyta (133), Chlorophyta (65) et Phaeophycées (23). Plusieurs espèces sont nouvellement citées pour l’île de Moorea et pour la Polynésie française et augmente la richesse spécifique décrite jusque là. La plupart de ces espèces proviennent des tranches bathymétriques profondes au-delà de 40 m et qui n’avaient jamais été prospectées avant cette campagne. Parmi ces espèces, plusieurs d’entres-elles avaient été récoltées en profondeur à Rapa aux Australes : Peleophycus multiprocarpum, Padina melemele ; aux Marquises : Predea laciniosa ; à Tahiti : Dudresnaya hawaiiensis, Predae weldii, Platoma abbottiana. Les taxons nouveaux pour la région sont : Boergesenia forbesii, Bryopsis harveyana, Cladophora glomerata, Cladophora goweri, Codium ovale, Ulva intestinalis, valonia cf nutrix, Scytosiphon lomentaria, Acrothamnion butleriae, Aglaothamnion boergesenii, , Antithamnionella elegans, Asteronemia pseudocoalescens, Amphiroa valonioides, Champia compressa, Chrysymenia kaernbachii, Gibsmithia dotyii.

IT Team Building Bulk Loading Tool

The IT team is busy building a bulk-loading tool. Goal is to finish it by April 15th.

2008 Algae expedition


The algal team, Claude Payri, Jean Louis Menou, Lydiane Mattio, et Antoine N'Yeurt, was collecting in Moorea from October to December 2008. The goal of this expedition was to make the inventory of the algal flora and to collect macro-species (multi-cellular and > 5mm) from the reefs and lagoons of Moorea. During this mission, 45 stations were prospected and referenced with a GPS. In each station, specimen were collected and photographed in situ when possible. Collects were conserved in plastic bags during the dive and return to the lab. During a type day, 2 or 3 collects were done between surface and 50 meter deep; collects were done mostly with air and Nitrox for a better desaturation during the decompression.

During this mission, 1193 herbarium plates were done. Most of the taxa were represented by at least 3 herbarium plates. Eventually, taxons were spread in 3 collections which were deposited at University of California Berkeley (UCB phycological collection), University of French Polynesia (UPF phycological collection Tahiti), and Paris Museum (PC). For certain groups, a fourth set of specimens was deposited at IRD Nouméa (NOU-IRD). The UCB collection is the reference collection with vouchers from which DNA was extracted for barcoding.

During this expedition, 221 taxa were identified, 193 at the species level, is to say 87% of the inventory. The remaining 13% were unidentified because they are non described species or because they lack some criterion for specific identification. The identified species spread between the 3 main divisions Rhodophyta (133), Chlorophyta (65) and Phaephycae (23). Many species are new records for Moorea and for French Polynesia, and increase the island described specific richness. Most of these species were collected in the areas deeper than 40 meters, never prospected before this expedition. Many of these species were collected in deep areas in Rapa (Australs): Peleophycus multiprocarpum, Padina melemele ; in Marquesas : Predea laciniosa ; in Tahiti : Dudresnaya hawaiiensis, Predae weldii, Platoma abbottiana. Les taxons nouveaux pour la région sont : Boergesenia forbesii, Bryopsis harveyana, Cladophora glomerata, Cladophora goweri, Codium ovale, Ulva intestinalis, valonia cf nutrix, Scytosiphon lomentaria, Acrothamnion butleriae, Aglaothamnion boergesenii, , Antithamnionella elegans, Asteronemia pseudocoalescens, Amphiroa valonioides, Champia compressa, Chrysymenia kaernbachii, Gibsmithia dotyiiå.

2008 Decapode collect

Collections of Decapoda that I have made during my stay include one hundred or so species, a lot of them entered in the Biocode database after common sampling in the mangrove. Estimated number of new taxa is about 10-15 % a figure that can appear modest but that must be regarded in the view of intensive previous sampling of Decapoda in French Polynesia. Also, this figure does not include the alpheid shrimps studied separately by A. Anker. As a lot of common species of lagoon and fore reef had been already sampled during a previous Biocode fieldwork (2006), I have mostly focused on decapods living in other biotopes: river, estuary and terrestrial area around Opunohu Bay. The most striking species I found there are a small terrestrial crab, Epigrapsus sp., and a large freshwater shrimp, Macrobrachium grandimanus.Along fringing reef of Moorea airport, at low tide among coral rubbles, I have also had the chance to find, Calappa gallus, a species distinct from common Calappa hepatica by a black spot on lateral side of its carapace. These 3 species are probably common in Moorea but they are so discreet that in about 20 years of steady sampling in French Polynesia I have never had the opportunity to collect them! This a chance that they can be included in the Moorea Biocode project!

2008 Plant expedition

During the year 2008 we surveyed by foot with Ravahere TAPUTUARAI, field project leader, and Marie FOURDRIGNIEZ, field assistant, all the highest summits of Moorea: Mt Tohiea (1207 m), Mt Rotui (899 m), Mt Mouaputa (830 m), and the ridges surrounding Mt Mouaroa (880 m), Mt Mouapu (762 m), as well as the largest and deepest valleys of Opunohu and Maharepa. Collecting priority was given to native (indigenous) and endemic vascular plants (flowering plants –Angiosperms- and ferns –Pteridophytes-). At least three individuals/plants per site were sampled for genetic studies (a couple of young leaves per plant is picked then dried in silicagel) and one of them (with flowers and/or fruits) is kept as a voucher specimen (pressed in a plant press and dried in an oven) for identification and storage in the herbarium (two vouchers if it is a new island record and/or a new species to science). The rare endemics were sampled in the different surveyed sites for further study on genetic variability and potential fragmentation effects. Location and elevation of each collected plant species are given using an altimeter, a topographic map (1/20 000) and a GPS. Photos of the species habitat, its habit (or life form), and its reproductive organs (flowers and fruits for the Angios, fertile frond for the ferns) were taken in situ. A short habitat description, with the dominant plant species in each strata (herbaceous, understorey, canopy), is conducted for each voucher specimen. More than 90 taxa were collected since November 2008, i.e. almost 35% of the island’s native vascular flora and 61% of the Angiosperms. We added about 20 new island records for the Pteridophytes, and found new populations/sites for some rare or threatened endemic flowering plant species such as the endemic sandalwood  Santalum insulare var. raiateense, the endemic lobeliad Sclerotheca forsteri, the endemic Rubiaceae Ophiorrhiza spp., and the native and endemic orchids Calanthe tahitensis, Corybas minutus, Corymborkis veratrifolia. Liparis clypeolum, Moerenhoutia plantaginea…New island records for endemic or native plants include the tree Macaranga taitensis,  the native sedge Cyperus macrophyllus, the vine Stephania japonica, and more are to be discovered!

2006 Tohiea expedition

The summit area of Mt. Tohiea at 1207m, the highest elevation on Moorea, was surveyed as part of a 2-days collecting expedition in September 2006. In this expedition a team of 5 entomologists  and 3 botanists were helicoptered to the summit, where they spent 1½ days on the summit before hiking down to the southeast. The team sampled terrestrial arthropods using methods of hand collecting, micro-pyrethrin fogging of vegetation and litter, and night black lighting. Many of the species collected from Tohiea appear to be new to science and many represent the first collections of indigenous species from a particular genus or family on Moorea.