Marine Invertebrates II
The section Marine Invertebrates II is responsible for the curation of a large part of Senckenberg’s collections of recent marine invertebrates: Plathyhelminthes, Nemertea, Aschelminthes, Sipuncula, Echiura, Annelida, Chaetognatha, Echinodermata and Hemichordata.
The plathyhelminths, annelids, and echinoderms represent valuable collections including numerous type specimens. The metadata of all collections have been transferred to the database SeSam/Aquila with financial support from the Walter & Erika Datz-Foundation and the German Research Foundation (DFG; Fi 433/12-1), and are available for online research. Research of the section is focused on the taxonomy, systematics, morphology, and biogeography of Polychaeta.
The Polychaeta form a group of the phylum Annelida and comprise with its approximately 10000 currently known species one of the most diverse marine animal taxa besides Crustacea and Mollusca. They occur in great diversity in all marine habitats from the intertidal down to the deep-sea, from seagrass meadows to hot vents. Polychaetes do not only show a wide variety of morphological adaptations to their habitat and mode of life, they are also able to cope with advertent living conditions in such extreme habitats as hot vents and cold seeps. These habitats are characterized by high temperature and dissolved toxic substances like sulfur and heavy metals. In suitable habitats, polychaetes often occur in large densities producing important biomass, especially in soft sediments, e.g. Arenicola marina at our North Sea coast.
Polychaetes are among the most common marine animals and therefore an important element of the marine food web. Many of them live on detritus, thus recycling nutrients, while they are preyed upon by fish, other invertebrates, and even birds, e.g. on tidal flats. They also play an important role in bioturbation of the sediment, as bioindicators, fouling species on ships, and harbor facilities, as neozoa, i.e. species distributed by man, and as pests in oyster farms. They are the subject of physiological and developmental research. Last but not least polychaetes grown in aquacultures are of economic importance as bait for fishing. In the beginning of the 90’s, aquaculture of polychaetes in Maine (USA) produced an annual value of ca. $3,5 million and thus represented an important income for fisheries in this region next to lobster, clams, and fish.
Research on systematics and diversity of polychaetes is of basic importance not only for systematics itself, but also for other fields of research such as ecology and conservation. Moreover, polychaetes play an important role in the deep-sea, a global habitat that has received much attention during recent years.
Besides the curation of the above-mentioned collections, the section has taken over a number of other institutional obligations, like the technical and organizational responsibility for the scanning electron microscope.