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The Frontiers in Evolutionary Zoology Team

The FEZ team consist of researchers coming from various countries and contribute a wide variety of expertise to the group (e.g., zoology, systematics, bioinformatics, ecology, and evolutionary developmental biology to mention a few).

Torsten Hugo Struck
FEZ group le
Principal Investigator

In my research, I am interested in invertebrate diversity at all taxonomic levels; this includes phylogeny as well as cryptic species and stasis, especially to what extent genomic limitations or possibilities influence evolvability. My research is predominantly on marine invertebrates, but recently also insects. Methodically, I employ a comparative approach using molecular and morphological data. Biology is changing dramatically as genome-scale data can be used for non-model organisms. My group uses these modern technologies. However, these possibilities also pose new challenges, especially with regard to data quality. I also do method development, both in the lab and in bioinformatics.


Lutz Bachmann
Principal Investigator
previous FEZ group leader 2017-2022

By training I am a population geneticist and a molecular evolutionary biologist. I am interested in the evolution of flatworm host-parasite systems and the respective genomic adaptations. I also explore the biodiversity of Norwegian mud dragons (Kinorhyncha) and their contribution to marine sea floor ecosystems and species communities. Moreover I study the genetic differentiation of different stocks of arctic marine mammals, in particular the Spitsbergen stock of bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus). I mainly work with molecular genetic and genomics applications, and am particularly interested in ancient DNA methodology and its use for analyzing natural history collection samples (Museomics). I am the curator of the Crustacea collection at the NHM Oslo.


Vladimir Gusarov
Principal Investigator

My research interests cover a range of topics. One of them is insect systematics and phylogenetics, with particular focus on staphylinid beetles. I am studying patterns of biodiversity distribution at different scales and I wish to understand the processes responsible for the observed patterns. I use both molecular and morphological data in my work. Geographically, my current projects span the Palaearctic region (from Norway to East Siberia, down to the Caucasus and mountains of the Central Asia), sub-Saharan Africa and different island systems, such as Iceland, the Canaries, the Falklands, and New Zealand.

James Fleming
Postdoctoral Researcher

As part of the InvertOmics project my research is focused on resolving current controversies in the understanding of the evolution of Lophotrochozoa. I am currently developing a new methodology for evaluating phylogenetic hypotheses, with the aim of applying it to phylogenetic debates within Lophotrochozoa. My broader research interests all orbit applied phylogenetics. I am fascinated by the stories that can be told though genes, proteins and their trees. These can tell us not just how something evolved, but about the world the common ancestor lived in. These small windows into the past are incredibly exciting, especially when applied alongside more fossil evidence and paleontological analysis.

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Anna Lotta Hillos
MSCA Postdoctoral Researcher

I am an evolutionary biologist interested in symbiotic interactions between protists and their invertebrate hosts in marine environments. My current project, PolyPro3, focuses on resolving a tripartite symbiosis between polychaete worms, their gregarine symbionts and microsporidians infecting the gregarines. Using a variety of molecular tools and field sampling in coastal sites around Skagerrak, I aim to figure out how common this symbiosis is, how do the different organisms affect each other (i.e. are they parasites or mutualists or something else) and do environmental conditions affect the symbiosis. Before moving to Oslo, I did my PhD at the University of Jyväskylä (Finland) with protist symbionts of bristle worm, Pygospio elegans, and developing molecular tools for studying the dynamics of the host-symbiont interaction.


As a Phd-student in the FEZ-group, I am studying the small (3-5 mm) intertidal beetle genus Aegialites. These intertidal beetles live in cracks and crevices in rocks on rocky shores, stretching along the Pacific coast from Japan to California. As these beetles are flightless, yet widely distributed, it is an ideal study system to study dispersal of small-sized organisms. Additionally, I will obtain genetic data to revise the taxonomy of the genus, detect complexes of cryptic species, levels of hybridization and gene flow. Prior to this, I worked with the invertebrate phylum Bryozoa, studying trait evolution and taxonomy of the cheilostome bryozoan family Adeonidae.

Supervisors: Vladimir Gusarov (FEZ) and Torsten H. Struck (FEZ)

My research aims to improve the resolution of the Spiralia tree of Life. The origin and evolution of Bilateria represents a core question within the Biology field. In one hypothesis, animals with a simple body organization evolve towards more complex forms several times independently; in another, animals with complicated body plans evolve towards simpler organizations by means of reductions. Support for one or the other hypotheses depends on the phylogenetic relationships within Spiralia, an animal group that includes annelids, molluscs, nemertines, platyhelminthes and many other organism of substantial zoological interest. 

Supervisors: Michael Matschiner (EPA), Torsten H. Struck (FEZ) and

Lutz Bachmann (FEZ)

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Maël Ariel Grosse
Principal Engineer

The phylogeny of the genus Aleochara


I am interested in taxonomy, systematics and diversity of marine invertebrates. In the Artsdatabanken project “Cirratulid polychaetes in Norwegian waters: A museum based approach to species diversity and distribution”my research focuses on polychaetes, in particular the family Cirratulidae. I integrate molecular and morphological data to delineate and describe species, including species new to science. I also aim to understand their distribution and to document them with photography and traditional scientific illustration to enable easier identification and mapping of each species

I am interested in animal diversity and systematics in general, but now I’m focusing on marine invertebrates. In the Artsdatabanken project “Assessing biodiversity in the marine algae belt” I’m mapping the diversity of tunicates, nemerteans, entoprocts, polychaetes and caprellids in different algae habitats across the Norwegian coastline. I enjoy working with lesser-known invertebrate groups and being challenged with unresolved taxonomic problems.

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Liepa Adomaityte
Master student

Adaptations to coastal habitats in beetle families Hydraenidae and Salpingidae and their evolution


For my masters project, I am interested in the habitat change of two beetle groups, Hydraenidae andsalpingidae. While hydraenids usually live in freshwater habitats, and salpingids live in decaying material, groups within these two families have branched out into coastal habitats and are now found along the pacific coastlines. This change in habitat also leads to their change in morphology and their loss in flight abilities, and so part of this project will also focus on trying to find out the ways these insects manage to disperse to and colonize remote coastal areas. During this project, I will collect and analyze genetic material, conduct morphological analysis of both the adult and larvae of these two groups and hopefully answer questions about the phylogenies of the two groups, their dispersal patterns, and the changes and adaptations these groups acquired due to their habitat change.


Supervisors: Vladimir Gusarov (FEZ) and John Marris (New Zealand)


Pia Merete Eriksen
Master student / Research assistant

I am interested in systematics, bioinformatics, and ecology. I have been involved in numerous projects alongside other group members, such as Rita Austin’s Museomics work, and the Artsdatabanken project “Assessing biodiversity in the marine algae belt”, alongside my own projects with marine mammals and invertebrates. I am excited to pursue a Masters Degree in Biodiversity and Systematics, and continue my work with museum collections and systematics.

Tentative title of the Master thesis: Macrosynteny of lophotrochozoan genomes and it potential for phylogenetic reconstructions

Supervisors: Torsten H. Struck (FEZ) and James Fleming (FEZ)


Marvin  Choquet - STADIS PostDoc
Supervisors: Torsten H. Struck (FEZ) and Michael Matschiner (SERG)

Carmen Dalseng - Master student
Genomic and phenotypic evolution of Lemmus lemmus

Supervisors: Rita M. Austin (FEZ) and Kjetil Voje (EPA)

Sunniva Løviknes - Master student
Under the beachtowel - an assessment of the biodiversity of Annelida and Arthropoda at beaches in the Oslofjord.

Supervisors: Torsten H. Struck (FEZ) and Lutz Bachmann (FEZ)

Jan Einar Berglund Amundsen 
- Master student
Nematode and flatworm biodiversity of natural and artificial urban beaches
Supervisors: Torsten H. Struck (FEZ) and Lutz Bachmann (FEZ)

Vineeth Krishnamoorthi - Master student
Phylogeny and natural history of the rove beetle genus Bledius
Supervisors: Vladimir Gusarov (FEZ) and Torsten H. Struck (FEZ)

Håkon Knudsen - Master student
A comparative study of the beetle diversity patterns in African mountains

Supervisors: Vladimir Gusarov (FEZ) and Torsten H. Struck (FEZ)

Le Yen Nhu Dinh 
- Master student
Comparative genomics of bryozoan species
Supervisors: James F. Fleming (FEZ) and Torsten H. Struck (FEZ)

Susanna Ferizi 
- Master student
Investigating the evolution of mitochondrial gene order in Gastrotricha
Supervisors: James F. Fleming (FEZ) and Torsten H. Struck (FEZ)

Preben Nikolay Anker 
- Master student
Investigating the evolutionary processes of local adaptation and genetic drift in two key pelagic marine zooplankton of the genus Calanus
Supervisors: Marvin Choquet (FEZ) and Torsten H. Struck (FEZ)




Rita M. Austin PostDoc (2020-2023)

various museomics projects 


PhD fellows:

José Cerca de Oliveira (2020)

On the origins of cryptic species: Insights from the Stygocapitella species complex

Supervisors: Torsten H. Struck, Michael D. Nowak, Günter Purschke (University of Osnabrück), Mark Ravinet (University of Nottingham)

Master students:

Line Willersrud (2023)

Assessing genetic biodiversity in Tunicata and Caprillidae

Supervisors: Rita M. Austin, Lutz Bachmann and Torsten H. Struck


Jørgen Hansen Starholm (2023)

Solving Phylogenetic Relationships Within the Rove Beetle Genus /Aleochara/ (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae) by Utilizing a Novel Approach based on High Throughput Sequencing

Supervisors: Vladimir Gusarov, Torsten H. Struck


Stian Aleksander Helsem (2021)

Divergence time estimates for several phylogenies of Annelida (Lophotrochozoa)

Supervisors: Torsten H. Struck, Christoph Bleidorn (University of Goettingen, Germany), Dimitar Dimitrov (University of Bergen), José Cerca de Oliveira (NTNU Trondheim)

Astrid Eggemoen Bang (2020)

The Biodiversity of Mud Dragons (Kinorhyncha) in the Fjords of Møre og Romsdal, Norway
Supervisors: Lutz Bachmann, Torsten H. Struck, José Cerca de Oliveira

Víctor González Triginer (2020)
Distribution range, occurrence and bycatch risk of a large pelagic shark, the porbeagle (Lamna nasus), in Norwegian waters
Supervisors: Lutz Bachmann, Claudia Junge (Institute of Marine Research, Tromsø)

Gordon David Scott Breckwoldt (2020)
Elasmobranchs as bioindicators? A comparative study on ingestion of plastics in the Nordic region
Supervisors: Lutz Bachmann, Claudia Junge (Institute of Marine Research, Tromsø)

Guest researchers:


Asmaa Haris El-getany Mansour (PhD student of Damietta University, Egypt)

DNA Barcoding of Egyptians polychaetes and its Commercial Culture Application

funded by a student teaching fellowship of the Egyptian Government.

Samaneh Pazoki (PhD student of University of Tehran, Iran)

Intertidal calcareous tubeworms (Polychaeta: Serpulidae) of the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman, a comparative study

funded by a student teaching fellowship of the Iranian government

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