Molecular Geo- & Palaeobiology Lab
Research » Molecular Phylogeny & Systematics

Molecular phylogenetics and systematics aim at unravelling the relationships of organisms and the evolutionary processes that led to the observed patterns using molecular sequence data (DNA, amino acids).

We are interested in questions at different levels of the tree of life, currently focussing our research on marine sponges, placozoans, and echinoderms.

Here, we investigate shallow (ecological) time processes on the phylogeography of Indo-Pacific invertebrates and deeper-time relationships within the main lineages of sponges (Phylum Porifera).

We are also deeply involved in DNA barcoding, a technique that uses short species-specific DNA fragments for rapid species identification. We pioneered DNA barcoding of sponges and currently coordinate the international Sponge Barcoding Project and curate the Sponge Gentree Server.
Key publications:
Voigt, O., Ruthensteiner, B., Leiva, L., Fradusco, B., Wörheide, G., 2018. A new species of the calcareous sponge genus Leuclathrina (Calcarea: Calcinea: Clathrinida) from the Maldives. Zootaxa 4382 (1), 147.
Haszprunar, G., Vogler, C., Wörheide, G., 2017. Persistent Gaps of Knowledge for Naming and Distinguishing Multiple Species of Crown-of-Thorns-Seastar in the Acanthaster planci Species Complex. Diversity 9 (2), 22.
Wörheide, G., Dohrmann, M., Erpenbeck, D., Larroux, C., Maldonado, M., Voigt, O., Borchiellini, C., Lavrov, D.V., 2012. Deep Phylogeny and Evolution of Sponges (Phylum Porifera). Advances in Marine Biology 61, 1–78.
Dohrmann, M., Vargas, S., Janussen, D., Collins, A.G., Wörheide, G., 2013. Molecular paleobiology of early-branching animals: integrating DNA and fossils elucidates the evolutionary history of hexactinellid sponges. Paleobiology 39, 95–108.
Erpenbeck, D., Sutcliffe, P., Cook, S.C., Dietzel, A., Maldonado, M., van Soest, R.W.M., Hooper, J.N.A., Wörheide, G., 2012. Horny sponges and their affairs: On the phylogenetic relationships of keratose sponges. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 63 (3), 809–816.
Dohrmann, M., Wörheide, G., 2013. Novel Scenarios of Early Animal Evolution—Is It Time to Rewrite Textbooks? Integrative and Comparative Biology 53, 503–511.
Dohrmann, M., Janussen, D., Reitner, J., Collins, A., Wörheide, G., 2008. Phylogeny and evolution of glass sponges (Porifera: Hexactinellida). Systematic Biology 57 (3), 388–405.
Vogler, C., Benzie, J., Lessios, H., Barber, P., Wörheide, G., 2008. A threat to coral reefs multiplied? Four species of crown-of-thorns starfish. Biology Letters 4, 696–699.
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Palaeontology & Geobiology