The new Mesosignidae species  

It's done - The first AleutBio thesis has been submitted!

Dear readers,

as you know, we have several students supporting us in the AleutBio project, such as student assistants for sorting work or bachelor’s and master’s students who are working on their own projects with us, actively contributing to our current research and providing support. This allows us to work together as a team on various projects – together, we achieve more! One of these dedicated students is Laura Spies…

Laura had contacted Angelika last year (before the AleutBio expedition) and inquired about the possibility of writing her bachelor’s thesis in Marine Zoology with us. After the expedition, Laura contributed to the identification of isopods, where she quickly identified a new species and developed a fascination for these small creatures. Over the past three months, as part of her bachelor’s thesis, she described and illustrated this species. She has now submitted her work to the Goethe University Frankfurt, describing a species of the asellid family “Mesosignidae” (deep-sea stars), thus completing the first thesis in the AleutBio project!

These small isopods do not possess eyes (one of the reasons it is believed that this isopod family has evolved in the deep sea) and are sometimes quite spiky, with long lateral projections that make them resemble stars. Mesosignidae can be found from the Arctic to the Antarctic, spanning the globe, with a depth range of 1016 to 7954 meters. In our material, Mesosignidae were found on the northern and southern slopes as well as in the Aleutian Trench, with a depth range of 4220 to 6503 meters. All in all, this is extremely interesting! The relatively large depth distribution and the distribution across the trench raise the question of whether these are truly the same species. Isopods are organisms that engage in brood care, hence they do not have free-swimming larval stages, and Mesosignidae are also poor swimmers, which greatly limits their dispersal ability. Apart from the AleutBio material, we have comparison material from the Kuril-Kamchatka Trench available that morphologically resembles the newly described species. In the future, we will genetically test whether we have found the same species in the Kuril-Kamchatka Trench and the various locations around the Aleutian Trench. Previous studies on other non-swimming isopod families in the Kuril-Kamchatka Trench have shown that trenches often acts as a barrier to distribution. We will keep you updated!

In the coming months, Laura will also be employed as a student assistant to support us in illustrating further new species. Stay tuned, we have much more to show you!


Greetings from Frankfurt,

Andreas, Steffi, Davide, and Angelika

A female and male of the new Mesosignidae species
Distribution of the new Mesosignidae species (red dots) along the Aleutian Trench
Laura Spies drawing