Die Riesenassel Bathynomus gigantheus.
The giant isopod Bathynomus giganteus.

Marine Zoology


The Crustacea section is one of the oldest sections of Senckenberg Frankfurt. It has been in existence since the early 19th century when it was founded and first headed by Eduard Rüppell. Over its long and varied history , the section has built up one of the most important crustacean collections in Europe. For historical reasons, the Crustacea collection contains mainly decapods, including large collections from Japan, the North Sea and the Arabian Seas. These are animals that even the layman can immediately recognize as crustaceans.

Today, the section is headed by Prof. Dr. Angelika Brandt , whose research focuses on Isopoda and other peracarid crustaceans from the deep sea and polar regions. These groups, which are very species-rich in comparison to other crustacean groups (approx. 12,000 species of isopods and approx. 14,000 decapods) exhibit a very large variety of forms, allowing them to inhabit all marine and freshwater habitats, from the deep sea to the intertidal, as well as large river systems up to mountainous regions. They have even conquered the land, the mangroves and beaches from the sea and drier soils in the mountains from fresh water. We consider the evolution and ecological significance of this immense diversity of forms, which are only partially described and even less understood, as a challenge for our research. Our work is based on taxonomy, which is an indispensable prerequisite for understanding the diversity of life.

The Crustacean Section’s main tasks include research and the maintenance and expansion of the collection . In this context we work closely with our sister institute Senckenberg am Meer . In addition, university teaching at the Goethe University Frankfurt am Main , the training of biological-technical assistants in cooperation with the Senckenberg School , as well as various aspects of consulting, committee work, public relations and scientific communication form a diverse and colorful spectrum of activities of the staff of the Crustacea section. Among other things, the researchers in the Crustaceans section were involved in writing the IPBES Global Assessment 2019 . In various interviews Prof. Dr. Angelika Brandt , Dr. Hanieh Saeedi and Dr. Torben Riehl explain what their work means for the marine environment, their fields of research and for them personally.

In the spirit of the Senckenberg mission “to collect, to research, to transfer”, scientists and technical assistants of the Crustacea section are involved in the development of our museums. As a special highlight, a part of our research will be presented in the new permanent exhibitions Deep Sea and Marine Research from 2020 onwards. More information about the conversion plans and the public fundraising campaign can be found at www.Die-Welt-baut-ihr-Museum.de.

If you would like to get a rare glimpse behind the scenes of our section and a deeper insight into our research, please keep an eye out for announced dates . We also offer you the opportunity to do an internship with us as part of your school or university education. Please contact the central internship office of our institute.


The Crustacea Section is one of the oldest in the Senckenberg Research Institute. Its founding head was Eduard Rüppell after he came back from Arabia in 1828. Adolf Reuss followed Rüppell in 1832 as head of section. In that year he had completed a hand written catalogue of the collection. After Rüppell stopped working on Crustacea in about 1834, the section was administered until 1878 by a number of scientists who were heads of other Sections (e. g. the botanist J. B. G. Fresenius). It was only after the section was taken over by Ferdinand Richters [*1849 – + 1914] on May 26, 1878 that new a period of scientific work in carcinology began. Also within this period another handwritten catalogue was completed (1880), and a detailed card-catalogue which is a great help for all historical reserch in the collection. In 1912 Alexander Sendler [*1878 – +1914] joined the staff, and after F. Richters died on July 3, 1914 he became head of the section. Only 3 months after that he was killed in action in World War I [October 10, 1914, near St. Mihiel south of Verdun]. After his death the section was again without a head and was adminstered by the curators of invertebrate zoology (F. Haas, A. Zilch). It was 1946 before a carcinologist was again appointed head of the section when Richard Bott [*1902 – + 1974] came to the Museum after being interned as a prisoner after World War II. He worked nearly exclusively on freshwater crayfish and freshwater crabs. During this time he brought together a large collection with many types. Many publications and monographs were written by him. After his death on January 27, 1974 Michael Türkay was appointed head of the section, at first as an assistant, and since 1976 as full curator. With the large expansion in German marine research much deep-sea material came to the collections and it is since this time that the scientific emphasis has changed towards marine decapods (for more exact subjects see below). More specific data concerning the history of the Crustacea Section can be found in the papers of M. Türkay in “Natur und Museum” (May 1981, pp. 151-157) and Senckenberg Buch 68 (1992).