Deep-Sea Biology Research Group

Current Projects

Our research group focuses on life histories (growth and reproduction), biodiversity, and foodweb ecology of deep-sea organisms, with emphasis on cephalopods and gelatinous zooplankton.

We apply observational, analytical and experimental tools during research expeditions in the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic Sea. We use deep-sea in situ observations from submersibles, camera systems and freefall landers to document deep-sea organisms in their natural environment.

We use pelagic video transects to predict what species may regionally contribute to the carcass flux that may fall on the seafloor, to establish regional baselines in diversity and distribution of midwater fauna. Video transects are analyzed using the annotation software VARS and stored in the Oceanic Biodiversity Observation Database (OBOD).

To quantify deposition of natural foodfalls we analyse databases of seafloor images for carcasses, and quantify local carbon contribution.

Furthermore, we use experimental deep-sea landers with bait to mimic deep-sea foodfalls to document the consumption rate and duration of carcasses and the attracted scavenging communities.

Finally, we search for traces of pelagic organisms in the deep sea via environmental DNA analysis, a technique that enables the detection of a species via metabarcoding of environmental samples (water, sediment).


Henk-Jan lectures in different courses of the MSc program Biological Oceanography and coordinates the 'Bioc-102 practical course in biological oceanography'.




Former Groupmembers

Philipp Neitzel


Technology development

In collaboration with GEOMAR engineers at GEOMAR’s Technical and Logistics Centre (TLZ) we developed the pelagic in situ observation system, or PELAGIOS, a towed deep-sea camera system that allows pelagic horizontal video transects in the deep water column. This system has successfully documented vertical structure of midwater communities as well as new species and regional records and biogeochemical functions of fauna. Together with GEOMAR engineers we constantly develop new ways to explore and sample organisms in the deep sea.



2019   R/V Western Flyer, 7 days MBARI Midwater Ecology Expedition Monterey Bay. Chief scientist Dr. BH Robison

2019   R/V Polarstern  PS121, 35 days, ancillary user project CARCASS investigating the role of plankton and nekton in the biological carbon pump using deep-sea landers, PELAGIOS, Multinet, CTD and eDNA collection. Chief Scientist Dr. K Metfies (AWI)

2019   R/V Poseidon  POS532, 21 days investigating the role of gelatinous zooplankton in the biological carbon pump in Cape Verde waters, manned submersible JAGO, PELAGIOS, Multinet, CTD and eDNA collection. Chief Scientist Dr. HJT Hoving

2018   R/V Heincke HEI518, 9 days investigating nekton and plankton in the Norwegian Sea. PELAGIOS, Multinet, Trawl, Baited camera landers. Chief Scientist Dr. U Piatkowski

2018   R/V Poseidon  POS520, 17 days, Investigating pelagic communities in Cape Verde waters using manned submersible JAGO, PELAGIOS, Multinet, CTD and eDNA collection. Chief Scientist Dr. HJT Hoving

2017   R/V Maria S. Merian MSM61, 9 days, Studying pelagic communities of macrozooplankton and nekton at time series station CVOO, Senghor seamount and mesoscale eddies. Deployment of seamount observatory. Chief Scientist Dr. B Fiedler

2017   R/V Meteor M138, 33 days, Cruise for SFB754 project. Deployment PELAGIOS for investigating vertical ecological zonation of the oxygen minimum zone off Peru. Chief Scientist Prof. Dr. H Bange.

2016   R/V Western Flyer, 7 days MBARI Midwater Ecology Expedition Monterey Bay. Chief scientist Dr. BH Robison

2015   R/V Meteor, 38 days from Mindelo, Cape Verde to Recife, Brazil. Deployment of towed pelagic in situ observation system PELAGIOS. Chief scientist Prof. P Brandt

2015   R/V Maria S. Merian, 19 days, Las Palmas, Spain to Mindelo, Cape Verde. Deployment of PELAGIOS, responsible for GEOMAR team (5 students and 1 technician). Chief scientist Dr. B Christiansen

2015   R/V Walther Herwig III, 16 days from Dakar, Senegal to Mindelo, Cape Verde. Mesopelagic trawl sampling. Chief Scientist Dr. H Fock

2015   R/V Western Flyer, 10 days La Paz to La Paz, Mexico. MBARI Midwater Ecology Expedition Gulf of California, pelagic ROV surveys. Chief scientist Dr. BH Robison


Selected Publications

Hoving, H.J.T., Neitzel, P., Hauss, H., Christiansen, S., Kiko, R., Robison, B.H., Silva, P, and Körtzinger, A. (2020) In situ observations show vertical community structure of pelagic fauna in the eastern tropical North Atlantic off Cape Verde. Scientific Reports 10:21798

Lischka, A, Lacoue-Labarthe, T, Bustamante, P, Piatkowski, U, Hoving HJT. (2020) Trace elements in the boreoatlantic gonate squid (Gonatus fabricii) demonstrate its ecological key role in polar regions of the Atlantic Ocean. Environmental Pollution 256: 113389

Hoving, HJT, Christiansen, S, Fabrizius, E, Hauss, H, Kiko, R, Linke, P, Neitzel, P, Piatkowski, U. and Körtzinger, A. (2019) The Pelagic In situ Observation System (PELAGIOS) to reveal biodiversity, behavior and ecology of elusive oceanic fauna.Ocean Science 15 (5) 1327-1340

Christiansen, S*, Hoving, HJT*, Schütte,F, Hauss,H, Karstensen,H, Körtzinger,A, Schröder,S, Stemmann,L, Christiansen,B, PicheralM, Brandt,P, Robison,BH, Koch,R, Kiko, R. (2018) Particulate matter flux interception in oceanic mesoscale eddies by the polychaete Poeobius sp. Limnology and Oceanography *equal contribution

Schwarz, R, Piatkowski, U, Hoving, HJT. (2018) The impact of environmental temperature on the lifespan of octopods. Marine ecology Progress Series 605: 151-164       

Hoving HJT, Bush SL, Haddock SHD, Robison BH. (2017) Bathyal feasting: post-spawning squid as a source of carbon for deep-sea benthic communities. Proc. R. Soc. B 284: 20172096

Purser A, Marcon Y, Hoving, HJT, Vecchione M, Piatkowski U, Easone D. Bluhm H, Boetius A. (2016). Association of deep-sea incirrate octopods with manganese crusts and nodule fields in the Pacific Ocean. Current Biology Volume 26 (24), 1268-1269

Hoving HJT, Laptikhovsky VV, Robison BH. (2015).  Vampire squid’s reproductive strategy is unique among coleoid cephalopods. Current Biology   25 (8): 322–323