Current Research Project

Our research revolves around the questions of patterns and processes of diversification in the Cenozoic. We focus on the taxon Mollusca and apply a broad array of methodological approaches, from traditional morphological and histological investigations to molecular phylogenetic analyses. The projects studied in our group focus on three major topics:


Biodiversity & Climate

The role of climate dynamics on species diversification is still in the centre of debate. We are interested in patterns and processes of Cenozoic Diversification and the role of paleoclimatic changes. We are developing rigorous statistical approaches to test whether climate changes triggered biological diversification. Moreover, we are interested in how lineages adapted to changing environmental conditions in relation to modifications of their ecological niche. We develop novel, integrative approaches to understand niche evolution, its drivers, processes and consequences for species diversity. The combination of phylogenetic, ecological, and biogeographic information for different plant and animal groups from various regions in conjunction with climatic data will allow us to reveal the factors that determine the diversity of species across different taxonomic groups and regions on Earth.


  • comparative phylogeography of Mexican lowlands
  • population history of Arion (Gastropoda, Eupulmonata)
  • model selection
  • species diversification and climate change in the Cenozoic


PIs: Prof. Dr. Annette Klussmann-Kolb, Dr. Jan Schnitzler, Dr. Eugenia Zarza

Collaborations with: Prof. Dr. Markus Pfenninger, Dr. Robert O´Hara

Molecular Phylogenetics

The focus of our phylogenetic studies has been the ph

ylum of Mollusca. We use state-of-the-art molecular phylogenetic approaches utilizing standard nuclear and mitochondrial markers to infer phylogenetic hypotheses for Bivalvia (Pectinidae) and Gastropoda (mainly Heterobranchia). One focus of our studies is the unravelling of patterns and processes of habitat transitions in Gastropoda. Therefore we intensively study taxa from marginal (at the edge of water to land) and terrestrial habitats. Morphological and histological investigations of selected organ systems are used to reconstruct character evolution and to reveal key innovations as adaptations to different habitats.In addition to the reconstruction of the phylogenetic history of selected taxa we are also interested in detecting novel phylogenetically informative molecular markers, by the utilization of genomic and transcriptomic data.


  • phylogeny and evolution of Ellobioidea (Mollusca, Gastropoda)
  • phylogeny and evolution of Pectinidae (Mollusca, Bivalvia)
  • phylogeny of Opisthobranchia (Mollusca, Gastropoda)
  • phylogeny and evolution of Panpulmonata (Mollusca, Gastropoda)
  • information content of gastropod molecular markers


PIs: Prof. Dr. Annette Klussmann-Kolb, Yaron Malkowsky, Pedro Romero, Alexander Weigand

Collaborations with: Prof. Dr. Benoit Dayrat, Prof. Dr. Ingo Ebersberger, Prof. Dr. Yasunori Kano, PD Dr. Michael Schrödl, Prof. Dr. Heike Wägele


Taxonomy & Diversity

We have intensively studied the biology, taxonomy and diversity of microgastropods of the taxon Carychiidae (Eupulmonata, Ellobioidea). We have achieved a so far unseen worldwide taxon sampling of Carychiidae including both epigean (Carychium spp.) and troglobitic (Zospeum spp.) lineages. Shell morphology, anatomy, histology and molecular diversity have been addressed. Barcoding and molecular phylogenetic studies uncover a high degree of cryptic diversity. Phylogeographic and phylogenetic studies provide insights into the evolutionary dynamics and help to understand todays biogeographical patterns.


  • diversity of Carychiidae
  • taxonomy of European Carychium
  • diversity and taxonomy of Japanese Carychium GBOL-project 'Subterranean Fauna'


PIs: Alexander Weigand, Adrienne Jochum, Yaron Malkowsky

Collaborations with: Dr. Carlos E. Prieto, Prof. Dr. Ruud Bank, Dr. Rajko Slapnik, Prof. Dr. Yasunori Kano, Dr. Yuichi Kameda, Dr. Dirk Steinke, Stefan Zaenker, Bärbel Vogel