Prof. Dr. Thorsten B. Reusch

Head of Research Division 3 - Marine Ecology
Head of Research Unit - Evolutionary Ecology of Marine Fish

Room: A 31
Phone: +49-431 600 4550
E-Mail: treusch(at)

Personal Assistant/Office Management
Cornelia Rüther
Room: A 31
Phone: +49 431 600-4551
Fax: +49 431 600-4553
E-Mail cruether(at)

GEOMAR  Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel
Düsternbrooker Weg 20
D-24105 Kiel




Career Stages

  • Research group leader Marine Evolutionary Ecology
  • since January 2012 Head of research division RD 3 - Marine Ecology
  • September 2008 full professor of marine ecology and chair of research unit Evolutionary Ecology of Marine Fishes at IFM-GEOMAR, Kiel
  • 2005 Professorship in Plant Evolutionary Ecology at the Institute for Evolution & Biodiversity, University of Münster, Germany
  • 2002-2005 Heisenberg-fellow of Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft DFG at the Max-Planck Institute for Limnology (now Evolutionary Biology) Plön, Germany
  • 1999-2002 Research fellow at the Max-Planck Institute for Limnology, Plön, Germany
  • 1997-1999  Marie-Curie fellow at University of Groningen, The Netherlands
  • 1994-1997  German Academic Exchange Service and DFG stipend at Coastal Marine Institute San Diego, USA
  • 1994  Dr. of Sciences at Institute of Marine Science IFM Kiel 

Scientific interests

The focus of my research is the ecology of evolution. Any ecological interaction is also a selection pressure. Consequently, if there is heritable variation, evolutionary change will take place. There is now ample evidence that the separation between ecological and evolutionary scale is misleading, in particular in marine systems. Both time scales are commensurate and should be answered within a common framework. Given the predicted environmental changes in the next decades, one focus area is the evolutionary response of populations to global change, including ocean warming, acidification, biological invasions and selective harvesting. Towards this end, both heritable variation within populations, and the distribution of genetic variation across latitudinal gradients needs to be quantified. Such an approach will benefit from an expansion of the evolutionary ecology toolbox. Once selectively relevant polymorphism is identified, predictions on the evolutionary potential of populations become possible.

Specific research areas are

• Evolutionary biology & population genetics
• host-parasite interactions
• Evolutionary consequences of global change
• Invasion biology
• Marine Genomics

Study organisms

• cod Gadus morhua
• pipefish Syngnathidae
• fish parasites (digenean trematodes)
• seagrasses Zostera marina
• comb jellies (Ctenophora)

Current projects

  • funded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft within Collaborative Research Center 1182 Origin and Function of the Metaorganism - "Microbiota – host interactions at the base of the metazoan tree" Co-PIs Ruth Schmitz-Streit, U Kiel,  2016-2019

  • funded by European Union /BONUS programme: "BIO-C3 Biodiversity changes-causes, consequences and management implications". Coordinator Thorsten Reusch, co-coordination DTU Aqua, Friz Köster, 13 partners in total, 2014-2017
  • funded by European Union /BONUS programme: "BAMBI-Baltic Sea marine biodiversity – addressing the potential of adaptation to climate change", 2014-2017
  • funded by Future Ocean Excellence cluster Kiel. "Transcriptome comparison of different Emiliania huxleyi morphotypes: identification of calcification related genes and determination if they are under selective pressure in a changing ocean". People involved: PhD student Lothar Miersch,CO-PI Markus Bleich, Ulf Riebesell, 2012-2015
  • funded by GEOMAR graduate school HOSST. "Diversification in the deep sea: the case study of two hybridizing Bathymodiolus species". People involved: PhD student Corinna Breusing,CO-PI Frank Melzner (GEOMAR), Anna Metaxas (Dalhousie Halifax), 2013-2015
  • funded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft DFG (within priority program DYNATRAIT) "Eco-evolutionary coupling in competing marine phytoplankton communities". 2014-2017. Collaboration with Dr. Birte Matthiessen, GEOMAR EÖ-N. People involved: Luisa Listmann.

Editorial tasks and memberships

  • since 2012 board member of the cluster of Excellence "Future Ocean"
  • Associate Editor 'Marine Biology'
  • Lenkungsgruppe DFG Schwerpunkt Wirt-Parasiten-Coevolution
  • Coordination of the topic "Evolving Ocean" with the cluster of excellence Future Ocean

Selected Publications

Olsen JL*, Rouzé P, Verhelst B, Lin Y-C, Bayer T, Collén J, Dattolo E, De Paoli E, Dittami S, Maumus F, Michel G, Kersting A, Lauritano C, Lohaus R, Töpel M, Tonon T, Vanneste K, Amirebrahimi M, Brakel J, Boström C, Chovatia M, Grimwood J, Jenkins J, Jüterbock A, Mraz A, Stam WT, Tice H, Bornberg-Bauer E, Green P, Pearson G, Procaccini G, Duarte C, Schmutz J, Reusch TBH*, Van de Peer Y* (2016) The genome of the seagrass Zostera marina reveals angiosperm adaptation to the sea. Nature 530: 331-335 doi: 10.1038/nature16548  *equal contribution (cover story)

Quaas M, Reusch TBH, Schmidt JO, Tahvonen O, Voss R (2016) It’s the economy, stupid! Projecting the fate of fish populations using ecological-economic modeling. Global Change Biology 22:264–270

Schlüter L, Lohbeck KT, Gutowska MA, Gröger JP, Riebesell U, Reusch TBH (2014) Adaptation of a globally important coccolithophore to ocean warming and acidification. Nature Climate Change 4:1024–1030, doi:10.1038/nclimate2379

Sunday JM, Calosi P, Dupont S, Munday PL, Stillman JH, Reusch TBH (2014) Evolution in an acidifying ocean. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 29:117-125

Reusch TBH (2014) Climate change in the oceans: evolutionary vs. phenotypically plastic responses in marine animals and plants. Evolutionary Applications 7:104–122

Haase D, Roth O, Kalbe M, Schmiedeskamp G, Scharsack JP, Rosenstiel P, Reusch TBH (2013) Absence of MHC class II mediated immunity in pipefish, Syngnathus typhle: evidence from deep transcriptome sequencing. Biology Letters 9: 20130044

Roth O, Klein V, Beemelmanns A, Scharsack JP,  Reusch TBH (2012). Male pregnancy and bi-parental immune priming. The American Naturalist 180: 802-814.

Lohbeck, KT, Riebesell U, Reusch TBH (2012) Adaptive evolution of a key phytoplankton species to ocean acidification. Nature Geoscience 5:346-351 [article]

Frommel AY, Maneja R, Lowe D, Malzahn AM, Geffen AJ, Folkvord A, Piatkowski U, Reusch TBH, Clemmesen C (2012) Severe tissue damage in Atlantic cod larvae under increasing ocean acidification. Nature Climate Change 2: 42-46

Franssen SU, Gu J, Bergmann N, Winters G, Klostermeyer UC, Rosenstiel P, Bornberg-Bauer E, Reusch TBH (2011) Transcriptomic resilience to global warming in the seagrass Zostera marina, a marine foundation species. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 108:19276-19281

Reusch TBH, S. Bolte, M. Saprwel, A. Moss, J. Javidpour (2010) Microsatellites reveal origin and genetic diversity of Eurasian invasions by one of the world's most notorious invader, Mnemiopsis leidyi (Ctenophora). Molecular Ecology 19: 2690-2699

Reusch, TBH, T.E. Wood (2007) Molecular Ecology of global change. Molecular Ecology 16: 3973–3992

Reusch, TBH, A Ehlers, A Hämmerli, B Worm (2005) Ecosystem recovery after climatic extremes enhanced by genotypic diversity. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 102: 2826-2831

Wegner KM, Kalbe M, Kurtz J, Reusch TBH, Milinski M (2003) Parasite selection for immunogenetic optimality. Science 301: 1343.

Reusch TBH, Häberli MA, Aeschlimann PB, Milinski M (2001) Female sticklebacks count alleles in a strategy of sexual selection explaining MHC polymorphism. Nature 414: 300-302.