Evertebrata Varia Research

Research activities contribute to the Senckenberg Research Field Biodiversity and Systematics.

As a co-working member of an Onychophora research project directed by Dr Georg Mayer, University of Leipzig and most notably Ivo de Sena Oliveira, Andreas Weck-Heimann was able to focus on the disregarded morphological diversity of velvet worms (Onychophora) by use of the scanning electron microscope ZEISS EVO 50 in operation at the Senckenberg Institute in  Dresden .

We identified a new species and genus from Costa Rica Principapillatus hitoyensis gen. et sp. nov. , Velvet Worm. The description of another new species from Vietnam, Eoperipatus totoro sp. nov., was published online on Feb 8, 2013. 
In December 2014 a paper on the new genus and species Cerradopatus sucuriuensis gen. et sp. nov. was published.   
Publications …

An additional topic of my work deals with the mosquito populations in Germany. I am a collaborator in a parasitology focused project funded by Leibniz-Gemeinschaft approaching important questions of relations between climate change and new health hazards, deriving form vector-born-diseases transmitted by invasive species.

Occurrence and vector competence of mosquitoes as vectors of viruses in Germany 
Will infectious diseases such as West Nile fever, dengue fever and others transmitted by blood-sucking insects soon regularly occur in Central Europe?

More interests in morphology and function …

Commonly supposed as the most important and complex sensory organ, ticks use the Haller’s organ to detect hosts via air pressure and CO2. Of course Haller’s organ has additional sensory competences in order to avoid bad evironmental conditions. Haller’s organ is a small multi-section structure placed lateral on the terminal segment of the first pair of legs. Further morphological studies on ticks are necessary, there are still some secrets to unveil.

As already mentioned, parasitologists  are interested in all kind of parasites. 

Andreas Weck-Heimann:
“That is why I was biomonitoring the endangered species Hirudo medicinalis (European medicinal leech) in Saxony/Germany for one thing and for another thing I’m taking part in a mapping project to investigate the mosquito populations of Germany, with focus on invasive species that might spread new diseases. ” 

Biodiversity …
Another topic of my work addresses the Hirudinea of Saxony, in this particular case concerning the biomonitoring of the European medicinal leech (Hirudo medicinalis). 
The two species Hirudo medicinalis and H. verbana are difficult to observe in the field. 
Only very few field investigations deal with the behaviour of the European medicinal leech. 
New methods to detect endangered species, in this case European medicinal leeches, have to be established, including environmental DNA techniques.

Hirudo medicinalis and Hirudo verbana are both species mentioned in the Annex V of the COUNCIL DIRECTIVE on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (EEC).

 In 2011/2012 and 2013 several new invertebrate species have been described in collaborative projects.

Collaboration: 
Workgroup “Animal Evolution & Development“, Dr. Georg Mayer, University of Leipzig, Saxony, Germany
– Research Group supported by the Emmy Noether Programme of the DFG
Arthropods are one of the largest and most diverse animal groups on earth, comprising nearly two-thirds of all animal species. To shed light on the evolution of this diversity, we focus on their closest relatives, onychophorans (velvet worms) and tardigrades (water bears) – two important, albeit understudied, animal groups. We apply various methods to study the anatomy, development, phylogeny and other aspects of these animals, which will help us to understand the evolutionary changes that have taken place since their divergence from arthropods over 540 million years ago.