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Science News

May 30, 2012

Dr Kanako Ishikawa from Lake Biwa Environmental Research Institute, Otsu, Japan, visited Dr Anne D Jungblut (NHM Life Sciences Department) in April 2012 as part of a project supported by a Daiwa Foundation Small Grant that aims to establish a Lake Biwa periphyton species list and carry out public engagement events on biodiversity, management and conservation of Lake Biwa, Japan.



Proliferation of macrophytes and periphyton in Lake Biwa


Lake Biwa is the largest lake in Japan and one of the twenty oldest lakes in the world. It has many endemic species, and supplies 14 million people with drinking water including the megalopolises Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe Cities. It is a breeding ground for freshwater fish and supports commercial fishing.


Microalgae such as cyanobacteria and green algae growing on leaves and stems of submerged water plants (macrophytes) or rock surface are defined as periphyton. These microalgae are not only an important food source for fish and other animals, but can also become nuisance for fishing equipment, water supply system and leisure activities.


Periphyton.jpgPeriphyton collected from Lake Biwa


In recent years macrophytes have become highly abundant in Lake Biwa and as a consequence periphyton growth has dramatically increased. However, little is still known about the species diversity of Lake Biwa periphyton, in particular the presence of non-native and potentially harmful species. During the visit, Kanako Ishikawa and Anne Jungblut carried out DNA-based analyses on periphyton samples collected from Lake Biwa using culture-independent methods.


Lab.jpgKanaka Ishikawa and Anne Jungblut preparing DNA samples for PCR


Anne Jungblut will visit the research laboratory of Dr. Kanako Ishikawa (Lake Biwa Environmental Research Institute) and Dr Taisuke Ohtsuka (Lake Biwa Museum) in Shiga prefecture, Japan, in July.


Palaeontology Seminar 

Thursday 7th June
Neil Chalmers Seminar Room, DC2, 16:00





Form and function in Cambrian stem-group echinoderms




Dr Imran Rahman, School of Geography, Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham






Modern echinoderms such as sea urchins and starfish are characterized by a unique pentaradiate body plan, which is established during ontogeny and clearly distinguishes them from other bilaterians. By contrast, some of the earliest fossil representatives of the phylum do not display radial symmetry; most strikingly, two Cambrian groups, ctenocystoids and cinctans, lack almost all the derived characters shared by extant species. These taxa are best interpreted as basal stem-group echinoderms, and hence may provide important insights into the origin and early evolution of echinoderms. However, their fossils are often difficult to interpret because so little of their anatomy has been deciphered, with competing phylogenetic hypotheses derived from differing interpretations of enigmatic characters. In order to better understand the evolutionary significance of these aberrant echinoderms, complete, three-dimensionally preserved ctenocystoid and cinctan fossils were studied using novel imaging (X-ray micro-tomography) and computer modelling (computational fluid dynamics) techniques. The results allow us to reconstruct form and function in the echinoderm stem-group, with implications for the assembly of the echinoderm body plan.






For additional details on attending this or other seminars see