The Invertebrate Collection covers more than 30 phyla of the animal kingdom. Even compared with major taxa for which there are specialized and separate collections, e.g., the Mollusks and the Insects (in Tel-Aviv), the Hebrew University Aquatic Invertebrates Collection contains an enormous wealth of aquatic material. Unlike the other biological collections at the Hebrew University, that are exclusively specimen-based, the Invertebrates Collection contains both individual specimens of a few taxa and a bulk of partly sorted or unsorted freshwater, marine meiobenthos and plankton material, resulting from various expeditions.
The identified specimen collections comprise the taxa studied by M. Tsurnamal (Porifera),J. Cohen (Octocorallia), H.J. Bromley-Schnur (Turbellaria and Cladocera), J. Dafniand I. Ferber (Echinodermata), M.N. Ben-Eliahu (Polychaeta) and F.D. Por (copepod crustaceans); as well as a wide variety of type specimens representing a panorama of the invertebrate world.
The Hebrew University Meiobenthic Collection — The hidden dimension of Lessepsian migration
The project “Biota of the Red Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean. A Survey of the Marine Life of Israel and Surroundings” (1967–1972) resulted in a wide variety of collections and scores of published results. The meiobenthos material of this intensive collecting program is housed in the Invertebrate Collection of the Hebrew University.
Sorting of the meiobenthos samples was carried out during the years following the project, but has not been continued since 1998. Sorting of the material from the Suez Canal, from around Cyprus, from the Gulfs of Suez and Eilat was given priority. Portions of the material from the Mediterranean coast of Israel are still unsorted. The following major taxonomic categories have been sorted: Nematoda, Gastrotricha, Kinorhyncha, Priapulida, Sipuncula, Annelida, Pycnogonida, Acari, Ostracoda, Copepoda, Phyllocarida, Mysidacea, Cumacea, Tanaidacea, Isopoda, Amphipoda and Decapoda. In addition to the sorted material, a part of the mother sample was always left unsorted, for eventual future processing.
During these years, the study of the Lessepsian migration continued to be based on macro-algae, fishes, mollusks, Polychaeta and decapod crustaceans, and an additional small diversity of occasionally reported invertebrates belonging to other macrobenthic taxa. The systematically collected meiobenthos material of our collection contains information about the still unknown number of meiobenthic Lessepsian migrants. Using the rule of thumb that for each macrobenthic taxon in a sample, there are 5–10 meiobenthic taxa, we may expect that our ideas about the dimensions of the migration will change greatly once this meiobenthos material is appropriately studied.
The Invertebrates Collection, under its new director, is now in the position to make this sorted material available for study to taxonomists world-wide. We shall with pleasure host visiting scientists from abroad who want to have a first look at the material of the taxon of their specialty and work it up. Please contact Dr. Ariel Chipman, the director of the Invertebrate Collection.
The plankton collections and hydrochemical data of the DCPE (Data Collecting Program Elat. 1974–1977), a tool for research and monitoring of changes in the Gulf of Aqaba-Elat
One of the highlights of the activity of the Heinz Steinitz Marine Biology Laboratory in Eilat was the Data Collecting Program Eilat (DCPE), headed by the third director of the Laboratory, Prof. Z. Reiss. The DCPE marked the birth of the modern oceanographic knowledge of the Gulf and supplied continuous monitoring data on physico-chemical and biological parameters in a number of permanent stations along the whole Gulf for the years 1974–1977.
More than 3,000 plankton samples of the collecting program are presently maintained in the National Invertebrate Collections of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The whole database containing the reference information on all these plankton samples, which was published 30 years ago in the Xeroxed Reports of the Steinitz Marine Biology Laboratory, has now been salvaged and computerized.
This material is once again at the disposal of the researchers working in the Gulf of Aqaba-Elat, both for extracting new information and for comparing with present data. For instance, for one of the planktonic taxa, the Crustacea Hyperiidea, the DCPE samples have recently yielded 46 species from the Gulf, of which no less than 37 species are new reports for the entire Red Sea.
The Invertebrate Collection was formally established in 1962 in what was then the Department of Zoology B, chaired by Prof. Karl Reich. Its first elements consisted of the Hebrew University material collected in expeditions to Lake Hula during the 1930’s and 1940’s, and the marine collections of Dr. Avraham Yashouv (Wirszsubski) from the same period and of Prof. K. Reich in Eilat in 1950. The collections were considerably augmented through the collecting activity of Prof. Dov Por and his students, with both marine and freshwater material added.
Additional invaluable specimens were provided by the Israel South Red Sea Expedition of 1962 to the Eritrean Coast (Eritrea, Dahlak Archipelago). The National Kinneret Project of the late-1960’s, before the National Water Carrier system was installed, brought in precious meiobenthos collections. Freshwater collections from springs and water bodies that no longer exist have their roots in those years.
Collections from the Hula Reserve, sampled before Lake Hula was partially drained and dried up (in the 1950’s) and irreparably polluted, deserve special mention. A survey of the still undisturbed springs of the Dead Sea and Jordan Valley resulted in the scientific baseline of Speleobiology in Israel.
A project, jointly undertaken by the Smithsonian Institution and the Hebrew University, “The Biota of the Red Sea and eastern Mediterranean” (1967–1972), carried out extensive sampling in the Red Sea, the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean as far as Rhodes; it transformed the Hebrew University Section of Aquatic Invertebrates into an international repository. This project also involved the Tel Aviv University and the Sea Fisheries Research Station in Haifa (the predecessor of the Israel Oceanographic and LimnologicalResearch, Ltd.) as subcontractors involved mostly with offshore sampling.
A trained field team in charge of the intensive littoral sampling activity was employed, as well as a sorting center with four technicians, of whom Z. Ophir remained in the department until her retirement. Starting from 1971, samples of porous hard substrates (with theircryptofauna), and particularly samples of intertidal Dendropoma reefs were collected periodically by Dr. M.N. Ben-Eliahu; some polychaete taxa were removed, but other taxa are still available for study.
With its large space requirements, the invertebrate collections occupied a whole building in the “Russian Compound” – the complex of buildings where the Zoology department was located at the time. Material was sent for identification to many scientists in Israel and abroad and their efforts increased the value of the collections. In addition, several theses resulted from this project. The bulk of the material, sorted to the main taxa, remains unstudied, this is particularly true of the planktonic and the meiobenthic taxa, and we hope that it will continue to attract taxonomists from abroad in order to achieve the full scientific potential of the collection.
Our collections moved to the present campus in 1980. From then until 1986, a joint project with the Nature Reserves Authority established the “Israel Inland Water Ecological Service” (I.E.S.), which set out to collect information systematically throughout the country. At about the same time, the Invertebrate Collection became part of the framework of the National Collections supported by the Israel Academy of Sciences and was designated by the Academy as a national invertebrates repository.
In consequence, several priceless collections were donated to the invertebrate collection for maintenance. These included the parasitological collections of the late Profs. G.-G. Witenberg (flatworms), G. Wertheim (nematodes), M. Costa and B. Feldman-Muhsam (mites and ticks). The invertebrate collection also provided a home to the national arachnological collection curated by Dr. G. Levy. In 1975, the collection received a donation of biofouling samples removed by H. Brattström and J. P. Taasen from ships of the “Yellow Fleet” trapped in the Bitter Lake of the Suez Canal between 1967 and 1975. Finally, two plankton collections, that of the late Prof. Z. Reiss (Data Collecting Program Eilat, DCPE 1973–1978) and of Prof. B. Kimor (Mediterranean, 1948–1975) were donated to the collection (see computerized data in databases section). Whereas the parasitological and arachnological collections are mostly identified and species-based, the two plankton collections, as well as the benthic collections, still contain much unidentified material. Collected during a period of undisturbed conditions, they can provide precious comparative information both about the Mediterranean and the Gulf of Aqaba-Eilat.
For the duration of the National Collections framework, a number of junior and immigrant scientists worked in the collections. The Academy of Sciences project ended in 1985. The most recent major collecting program, mainly carried out by Dr. Ch. Dimentman, ended in 2006; it dealt with the partly restored Hula Valley, post-drainage.