Taxonomic research

Taxonomy deals with the identification of species; the recording of these species forms the necessary basis for ecological expert opinions, research reports and environmental impact studies. Experts in the taxonomy of benthic (bottom-dwelling) marine animals have been working at IfAÖ for more than twenty years. Through years of daily examination of numerous seafloor samples from the North and Baltic Seas, the staff is very familiar with the fauna, so that they are able to perceive changes in it. This results in an increase in knowledge. Often the identification of benthic species is difficult. For comparison the in-house specimen collection, which has also been maintained for about twenty years and contains more than 39,000 series of specimens helps with the identification. Furthermore, the taxonomists are in active exchange with internationally engaged experts for the respective animal groups and constantly educate themselves using the most current available literature.

The detailed insight and knowledge of IfAÖ's benthic experts are incorporated into scientific publications, often in cooperation with governmental research and teaching institutions, such as the all-German checklist of the macrozoobenthos of the North and Baltic Seas (Zettler et al. 2018). Some benthic animal groups are particularly challenging due to their small size, large number of species, and variability in their external characteristics. An example of this are marine bristleworms (Polychaeta). A large proportion of animals in that group are not yet known to science, and therefore biologists may still discover new, previously undescribed species even in well-studied waters. IfAÖ's polychaete experts have already been able to discover several new species and collaborate on their description (Dietrich et al. 2015; Barnich et al. 2017). Due to various human activities, especially global shipping, which has increased extremely in recent decades, alien species (neobiota) are introduced into the North and Baltic Seas every year. Taxonomists of IfAÖ have already been able to document quite a few of these species (see, for example, Schüler et al. 2020; Leitinger et al. 2021). The natural range expansions of species, such as the spread of the tang Fucus evanescens in the Baltic Sea, could also be published thanks to members of the Benthos Department (Romoth et al. 2019).


Lisa Schüler

T +49 38204 618-33
E schueler(at)


Leitinger, J.; Schüler, L. & Nestler, S. (2021)
Among us: first record of the non-indigenous amphipod Incisocalliope aestuarius (Watling and Maurer, 1973) in Germany.
BioInvasions Records (in press).

L. Schüler & P. Schilling
5th Macrozoobenthos Workshop: 13.11. - 15.11.2019 - Taxonomy and determination of selected marine macrozoobenthos groups - Final report -, Federal/State Marine Monitoring Program for the North and Baltic Seas (BLMP) - Reports of the Quality Assurance Unit 2020/12, Germany/Federal Environment Agency Dessau-Roßlau (in press)

Schüler, L.; Leitinger, J. & Schanz, A. (2020)
First record of the Japanese cumacean Nippoleucon hinumensis (Gamô, 1967) (Crustacea: Cumacea: Leuconidae) from Europe
BioInvasions Records 9 (2): 249-258.

Barnich, R., Dietrich, A., Hager, T. et al.
On the genera Malmgrenia McIntosh, 1874 and Pettibonesia Nemésio, 2006 in the Northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea, with descriptions of two new species (Polychaeta: Polynoidae)
Mar Biodiv 49, 315–324 (2019). »

Romoth, K., Nowak, P., Kempke, D., Dietrich, A., Porsche, C., & Schubert, H. (2019)
Acclimation limits of Fucus evanescens along the salinity gradient of the southwestern Baltic Sea
Botanica Marina, 62(1), 31-42.

Zettler, M. L. , Beermann, J. , Dannheim, J. , Ebbe, B. , Grotjahn, M. , Günther, C. P. , Gusky, M. , Kind, B. , Kröncke, I. , Kuhlenkamp, R. , Orendt, C. , Rachor, E. , Schanz, A. , Schröder, A. , Schüler, L. and Witt, J. (2018)
An annotated checklist of macrozoobenthic species in German waters of the North and Baltic Seas
Helgoland Marine Research, 72 (5), pp. 1-10 . doi: 10.1186/s10152-018-0507-5

Dietrich, A., Hager, T., Bönsch, R., Winkelmann, C., Schmidt, A., & Nygren, A. (2015)
A new species of Myrianida (Autolytinae, Syllidae, Annelida) from the North Sea, with short notes on the distribution and habitat of Northeast Atlantic autolytines.
Marine Biology Research, 11(8), 804-813.