FishWorld joins LUMIWAN 2008
by T Bagarinao
Curator, SEAFDEC FishWorld
Billed as a survey of the deep-sea benthic fauna of the South China Sea, LUMIWAN 2008 was conducted by the Museum national d’Histoire naturelle (MNHN) of Paris, the Smithsonian Institution of Washington DC, the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR), and the University of San Carlos of the Philippines off Lubang, Mindoro, and northern Palawan. LUMIWAN 2008 continues the census of marine biodiversity in the Philippines that was started by PANGLAO 2005 and AURORA 2007. Both previous expeditions and LUMIWAN 2008 were led by Chief Scientist Dr. Philippe Bouchet of the MNHN and used the research vessel MV DA BFAR. Funding for LUMIWAN 2008 was provided by an anonymous foundation through a grant to Dr. Stephen Cairns of the National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution. The expedition thus included several museum scientists from France and the USA, as well as from the Institut de Recherche pour le Developpement of New Caledonia, National Taiwan Ocean University, Academia Sinica, Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research of the National University of Singapore, the World Fish Center, Lomonosov State University of Russia, and me from the SEAFDEC Aquaculture Department and FishWorld. The taxonomic expertise covered mainly mollusks, cnidarians, echinoderms, crustaceans, and fishes.
BFAR Director Malcolm Sarmiento approved the LUMIWAN expedition and allowed the use of the research vessel MV DA-BFAR. The officers, crew, researchers, and master fishermen fully cooperated with the expedition. LUMIWAN 2008 left Pier 4 of Manila Harbor in the afternoon of 22 March, made collections at sea for ten days, and returned to the same port on 2 April 2008. The ship occupied 68 sampling stations, mostly near Lubang Island and around the Simo Banks, but also in Balayan Bay and Verde Island Passage, off western Mindoro and around Apo Reef, and northwest off Busuanga Island. The stations ranged in depth from 105 m to 2,249 m and had mostly soft bottom. Samples of benthic fauna were collected by three types of gear brought on board by the expedition team: beam trawls (59 times), Waren dredges (five times), and otter trawls (four times). Several operations were unsuccessful because the gears failed one way or another.
Sorting of the catch was done on white wooden tables on deck. Organisms were separated from debris and placed in numerous plastic trays according to major taxa. The organisms sorted were covered with crushed ice until they could be photographed and the tissues sampled. Labels were written in pencil on waterproof paper: cruise number, depth, date, etc. Sorted animals were preserved in formalin or ethanol and heat-sealed in plastic bags. Live specimens of gastropods, bivalves, cnidarians, echinoderms, and sponges were kept on ice and treated with a relaxant for photography. Minute tissue samples were preserved in absolute ethanol for DNA analysis and barcoding at the Smithsonian Institution. The specimens were to be sent to the museums and institutions indicated in the Memorandum of Agreement where they were to be processed, curated, and studied properly.
LUMIWAN 2008 in part celebrated the centennial of the USS Albatross expedition to the Philippines in 1907-1910. The USS Albatross occupied many stations deeper than 100 m around Lubang Island and in the Verde Island Passage, but not off western Mindoro, northern Palawan, nor Busuanga. LUMIWAN 2008 sought to obtain additional specimens of Neoglyphea inopinata, a strange crustacean resembling a burrowing shrimp and considered a living fossil. On 17 July 1908, the United States Bureau of Fisheries steamer Albatross trawled up the very first Neoglyphea from 187 m deep at station D5278 off Malavatuan Island (14°00′00″N 120°17′15″E) near Lubang Island. Very much later on 23 March 1976, the MNHN expedition MUSORSTOM I obtained nine additional specimens of Neoglyphea off Lubang. LUMIWAN 2008 tried very hard, but did not get any more of this living fossil.
At the invitation of Dr. Cairns and Dr. Bouchet, I joined LUMIWAN 2008 after a Fulbright-funded project at the Smithsonian Institution to study the US Bureau of Fisheries’ expedition to the Philippines in 1907-1910 on board the steamer USS Albatross. Almost all specimens are now at the NMNH, still in good condition after a hundred years. My goal in joining LUMIWAN was to see and photograph fresh some of the animals that were dredged up by the Albatross and were published about by American, European, and other non-Filipino taxonomists since then. Indeed I was excited beyond words for LUMIWAN 2008 brought up an incredible variety of deep-sea animals I had not seen before in many years of research. Although most of the LUMIWAN animals had been pre-targeted for museums in the USA, France, Taiwan, and Singapore, I was able to obtain lots of specimens of the abundant taxa, a large number of photographs, the good will of the LUMIWAN taxonomists, and the promise of sharing of information on the Philippine collections. My collections included numerous deep-sea scleractinians and octocorals, courtesy of Dr. Cairns; three Acesta, several Xenophora, many Dentalium, and other mollusks, courtesy of Dr. Bouchet; echinoderms (which were insanely abundant); glass sponges (extras); and polychaetes in tubes (which were not of interest to the others). The specimens I saved from LUMIWAN 2008 will become part of the reference collections of FishWorld, which have already been widely used by teachers, students, and tourists in Iloilo for research, education, and aesthetic enjoyment. I will also use the LUMIWAN specimens to illustrate a book I will write about the Albatross expedition to the Philippines.