Composite image of individually photographed insects.


Entomology at the Institute of Zoology and Evolutionary Research comprises the two research groups »Phylogeny and Evolution of Insects« and »Macroecology and Biogeography of Moths«
Composite image of individually photographed insects.
Image: Hans Pohl

»Als Gregor Samsa eines Morgens aus unruhigen Träumen erwachte, fand er sich in seinem Bett zu einem ungeheuren Ungeziefer verwandelt. Er lag auf seinem panzerartig harten Rücken und sah, wenn er den Kopf ein wenig hob, seinen gewölbten, braunen, von bogenförmigen Versteifungen geteilten Bauch, auf dessen Höhe sich die Bettdecke, zum gänzlichen Niedergleiten bereit, kaum noch erhalten konnte. Seine vielen, im Vergleich zu seinem sonstigen Umfang kläglich dünnen Beine flimmerten ihm hilflos vor den Augen.« Franz Kafka: Die Verwandlung. Leipzig, 1915, S. 1177

Entomology at the Institute of Zoology and Evolutionary Research deals with different aspects in two research groups. The group »Phylogeny and Evolution of Insects« studies evolutionary transformations on the phenotypic level in different groups of insects, with the background of phylogenetic hypotheses. The group »Macroecology and Biogeography of Moths« focuses on macroecology, biogeography, phylogeny and systematics of moths.

Phylogeny and Evolution of Insects

The group was founded in 2004 with the appointment of Rolf Georg Beutel as professor of Systematic Zoology and Entomology (Spezielle Zoologie und Entomologie). With the retirement of Prof. Dr. Rolf G. Beutel in 2020, PD. Dr. Hans Pohl took over the leadership of the group.

The development and optimized application of innovative techniques in insect anatomy plays an important role in our research. More specific topics are effects of miniaturisation, and adhesive devices in the context of evolutionary interactions between insects and plants. We are also members of 1KITEExternal link, an international project to reconstruct the phylogeny of Hexapoda using transcriptomes. Intensive investigations are focused on the morphology and evolution of various insect orders, such as for instance Strepsiptera, Coleoptera and Neuropterida. We also investigate impression fossils and extinct insects preserved in amber. 

Current research projects

Macroecology and Biogeography of Moths

The group of Dr. Gunnar BrehmExternal link focuses on macroecology, biogeography, phylogeny and systematics of moths. Model groups are the species-rich moth clades of Geometridae (looper moths) and Arctiinae (tiger moths and woolly bears). Field work is carried out both in Europe and South America, where many undescribed species occur. Collection based research involves the study of traits such as body size and colour.

Current research projects

  • LED lamps, traps and AI
  • Mongolia project
  • Eois project
  • Phylogeny of geometrid moths
  • Plant-pollinator interactions: Diurnal and nocturnal pollinators in the Chocó forest of Ecuador
  • Diversity and key traits of moths along a complete elevational gradient in the Peruvian Andes