Marine Ökologie

Evolutionary ecology of Mnemiopsis Leidyi invasions into Europe


DFG-Project 2009-2012 to Prof TBH Reusch (GEOMAR) and Prof E. Bornberg-Bauer (University Münster)


Gelatinous zooplankton plays an increasing role in the changing global oceans, especially in the anthropogenically disturbed coastal ecosystems, highlighting the importance of these ancient but understudied players in the evolutionary ecological game. Gelatinous animals like Cnidaria, Cubozoa and Ctenophora also represent important phylogenetic links towards higher multicellular organisms, with Ctenophores being among the most basal metazoans, vital for a general understanding of adaptive and developmental processes.

The Ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi has successfully invaded several European Seas. After invasion of the Black and Caspian Sea during the 1980s and 90s this Ctenophore established populations in the North and Baltic Sea after 2006 and also colonized the Mediterranean Sea. Using microsatellites, developed for the first time in the phylum Ctenophora, we were able to demonstrate that M. leidyi has invaded Eurasia repeatedly from two independent source regions: The earlier introduction into Black and Caspian Sea could be traced back to the Gulf of Mexico whereas the recent invasion of North and Baltic Sea originated from the Coast of New England. Our current research aims to use this unintended “grand experiment” to understand the adaptive evolution that accompanies these biological invasions on genome level. Using next generation sequencing and population wide SNP-calling we are investigating how the genome of these basal metazoans adapts to the new environments. In collaboration with the Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology Kiel we further investigate the immune repertoire which allows these animals to survive and spread rapidly in new habitats.


People involved at GEOMAR:

Prof. Thorsten BH Reusch

Dr. Sören Bolte 


Prof. E. Bornberg-Bauer (University Münster), Prof. P. Rosenstiel (IKMB)

Dr. E. Philipp (Postdoc; IKMB), Prof. A. G. Moss (Auburn University)

Dr. Cornelia Jaspers 




Prof. Dr. Thorsten Reusch
GEOMAR | Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel
West shore Campus
Düsternbrooker Weg 20 
D-24105 Kiel 
Phone: +49-431 600-4550
Fax: +49-431 600-4553
e-mail: treusch(at)

Dipl. Chem. Sören Bolte,  PhD
Phone:+49-431 600-4539
e-mail: sbolte(at)