Main Research field

Soil animals portal: Determination and recording of soil animals

An online portal and intuitive, easy-to-understand, user-friendly and interactive identification keys are being developed for around 250 soil animal species occurring throughout Germany with the friendly support of colleagues from other institutions or expert private individuals. The planned soil animal portal includes the indigenous terrestrial woodlice (Oniscidae:​ approx. 50 species), the millipedes (Diplopoda: approx. 140 species) and the centipedes (Chilopoda: approx. 60 species). The users, whether beginners or advanced, should arrive with understandable language, over easily recognizable characteristics, as well as many clear illustrations and pictures on fast way at a safe determination result. In addition, the portal will offer interesting information on the native soil animal groups and provides further information
on the profiles of the individual animal species with a species description, information on distribution and ecology, as well as numerous images.

Furthermore, the users of the soil animal portal have the possibility to report finds. The found soil animal species is sent to the portal together with information about the location of the find, its coordinates and, if necessary, photos. In this way the user can become a citizen scientist and actively participate in the research of the distribution, frequency and ecology of
these soil animals. The incoming discovery reports should be publicly visible for these animal groups in the application after an examination and release by experts and will also be transmitted to the soil zoological database Edaphobase  (

The online portal will be available free of charge on PC, Tablet and Smartphone. With the downloadable app, users can also identify native soil animals on the move, even without Internet access, and create a find report. The programming is carried out by the cooperation company Kunert Business Software (KBS) from Leipzig.

The aim of the development of the planned soil animal portal is to bring the soil animals closer to the citizens of different age groups (children to seniors) and to motivate them to actively participate in the research of the biological diversity of the soil. In addition, this platform should encourage people to independently discover and experience their environment and its biodiversity, e.g. by turning over stones, digging in compost heaps, digging in leaf litter and examining dead wood. In addition, the application should also serve as a useful tool for already active specialists for their research and observations.

This project is funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media and is part of the federal project museum4punkt0.

 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.