Main Research field

EDAPHOKEYS – An information portal, interactive identification key and recording application for woodlice, millipedes and centipedes

The determination literature for soil animals has so far mainly been aimed at specialists. This means that most interested people are denied access to the native soil animals. In order to lower the inhibition threshold and facilitate the identification of soil animals, the Senckenberg Museum of Natural History Görlitz is developing a soil animal online portal called “EDAPHOKEYS“ [German version: BODENTIER hoch 4] as part of the Germany-wide joint project “museum4punkt0” funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media. The big challenge is to bring these small and seemingly unattractive animals closer to interested people of different ages with understandable texts and intelligent identification keys. The portal will contain general introductions to the three different animal groups: terrestrial isopods (Oniscidea), millipedes (Diplopoda) and centipedes (Chilopoda). Species portraits with short descriptions, information on distribution and ecology as well as numerous images for the approximately 250 soil animal species that occur in Germany and some adjacent European countries (e.g. Scandinavia, Belgium, Netherlands) are provided. All texts will be written in a way that is generally understandable. With the support of (citizen) scientist colleagues, we create a comprehensible, user-friendly and interactive identification keys. The users, whether beginners or advanced, should quickly arrive at a safe determination result by means of preferably easily recognizable characteristics (if possible) and many illustrations and images from literature, colleagues or taken within this project. In addition, the application offers interesting information on the three animal groups. The particular record of an identified specimen can be transmitted to the portal together with information about the location and images. After verification by the experts, the incoming records are activated for these animal groups in the data portal or are publicly visible; and also transmitted to the soil zoological database of Senckenberg – Edaphobase. In case of misidentification or problems, a taxon expert is available to support the user in their work and to provide access to the scientific community. The user thus becomes a citizen scientist and can actively participate in the research of soil animals. The application will be available free of charge as a website and mobile application (Android, iOS) in 2020. The application system is open-source, additional species and characters can be easily added and it supports also multiple languages. The application will be in German language and also most parts will be later available in English (keys, general texts).

 Post-embryonic development of lithobiomorph centipedes

Investigations on the stadial development of (morphological) characters, especially with taxonomical relevance, are carried out as a continuation of former descriptions of the life cycles of different species of Lithobius. The long-term objective is the preparation of a determination key that will include juvenile stages.
Within the actually developed systems[guidelines] for biological assessment of soils and the first establishment of German Red Lists of threatened myriapod species, Chilopoda are of growing importance. In order to achieve a comprehensive utilization of this group for indicator purposes, further research will be necessary in order to enhance the knowledge of autecology, bionomy and phenology of Chilopoda on a stable base suitable for subsequent decision-making. Including all post-embryonic stadia of Chilopoda as a main result of this project will multiply the quantitative basis for assessing the impact of Chilopoda as indicator organisms for ecological issues.
For investigations on developmental biology, time-consuming laboratory rearing in combination with field studies are necessary. Apart from measurements of several body segments during development, changes in various other characters (e.g., spinulation of legs) for each stage have to be observed and checked for possible taxonomical relevance. Additionally it is essential to detect yet unknown characters for identification of juvenile stages of several species.

Investigating the biodiversity of Myriapoda along a (North) Mediterranean transect

Investigations of the myriapod fauna of up to ten selected geographical areas are performed along a (mainly) North Mediterranean Transect from Spain to Caucasus in order to detect the distribution patterns of myriapod species as well as their ecology and the influence of biotope types on morphological characters. Here, attention is paid especially to species with high ecogeographical potential, thus indicating a comparably broad tolerance to ecological and environmental conditions.
The project is based on the comprehensive scientific experience of the Myriapoda Section in site dependence of myriapod assemblages in Central Europe. A comparable understanding for the Mediterranean region is still missing. Detailed information about species which are widespread in these areas and show high morphological variability (e.g., Geophilus carpophagus) will shed new light on the ecogeographical behaviour of these species in relation to distribution patterns diverging from centre towards the limits of distribution. Hence there is no main focus on endemic species to be detected but on the increase of knowledge about habitat requirements of widely distributed myriapod species. Hereby we enlarge on a scientific level the suitability of myriapoda, as being highly dependent on local habitat conditions, as indicator organisms for soil condition assessment, taking into account information about species composition and characteristical attributes of colonisers, especially their ecological preferences.
Each year one of these geographical areas is investigated in detail, whereby Spain and Tunisia will be the next to come.

Nature conservation. Studies on survey and assessment of the occurrence of representative myriapod species on habitat types according to theHabitats Directive and endangered biotope types in East Germany

The analysis of a large amount of data allows to compile lists of myriapod species occurring on endangered biotope types for several federal countries of East Germany, as well as to assess their occurrence in FFH areas. General checklists of the myriapod fauna of the federal countries are taken as the basis for this assessment. As in the past myriapoda have been strongly neglected in such checklists, they do currently exist only for Saxony-Anhalt (Voigt-länder 2003, 2009), Thuringia (Voigtländer 2009), Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg. It is urgently necessary to fill these gaps in knowledge and to catch up with animal groups that are much better investigated, e.g., Carabidae.

Soil zoological taxonomic-ecological data base (Edaphobase) part Myriapoda

This comprehensive data base, which is currently under construction, will also include data about Chilopoda and Diplopoda and thus for the first time permit to address detailed questions about ecology and zoogeography on a nationwide level. The necessity of comprehensive data input will also have an effect on our exploratory focus for the next years to come, most notably providing a sound data basis for investigations and modelling of area dislocation as well as changes in ecological behaviour of species (e.g., in connection with climatic change – LOEWE project).

Continuation of the long-term study (“succession projects”)

“Immigration and succession of selected groups of soil fauna in terrestrial dump ecosystems”

The investigation of succession of soil fauna in recultivated opencast coal mining sites has been initiated 50 years ago and is still continuing for several taxon groups (especially Lumbricidae, Chilopoda and Diplopoda). Additionally, a treatment of taxa yet to be studied (e.g., Isopoda) currently is in preparation.