Mollusc species from the Pontocaspian region – an expert opinion list

Mollusc species from the Pontocaspian region – an expert opinion list

expand article infoFrank P. Wesselingh, Thomas A. Neubauer, Vitaliy V. Anistratenko, Maxim V. Vinarski, Tamara Yanina, Jan Johan ter Poorten, Pavel Kijashko, Christian Albrecht, Olga Yu. Anistratenko, Anouk D’Hont, Pavel Frolov, Alberto Martínez Gándara, Arjan Gittenberger, Aleksandre Gogaladze, Mikhail Karpinsky, Matteo Lattuada, Luis Popa, Arthur F. Sands, Sabrina van de Velde, Justine Vandendorpe, Thomas Wilke


Defining and recording the loss of species diversity is a daunting task, especially if identities of species under threat are not fully resolved. An example is the Pontocaspian biota. The mostly endemic invertebrate faunas that evolved in the Black Sea – Caspian Sea – Aral Sea region and live under variable salinity conditions are undergoing strong change, yet within several groups species boundaries are not well established. Collection efforts in the past decade have failed to produce living material of various species groups whose taxonomic status is unclear. This lack of data precludes an integrated taxonomic assessment to clarify species identities and estimate species richness of Pontocaspian biota combining morphological, ecological, genetic, and distribution data. In this paper, we present an expert-working list of Pontocaspian and invasive mollusc species associated to Pontocaspian habitats. This list is based on published and unpublished data on morphology, ecology, anatomy, and molecular biology. It allows us to (1) document Pontocaspian mollusc species, (2) make species richness estimates, and (3) identify and discuss taxonomic uncertainties. The endemic Pontocaspian mollusc species richness is estimated between 55 and 99 species, but there are several groups that may harbour cryptic species. Even though the conservation status of most of the species is not assessed or data deficient, our observations point to deterioration for many of the Pontocaspian species.

Article published by Anouk D'Hont

We are happy to announce that Anouk D'Hont has published an article in the journal Aquatic Invasions, International Journal of Research on Biological Invasions in Aquatic Ecosystems:

Drivers of dominance shifts between invasive Ponto-Caspian dreissenids Dreissena polymorpha (Pallas, 1771) and Dreissena rostriformis bugensis (Andrusov, 1897), Anouk D’Hont, Adriaan Gittenberger, A. Jan Hendriks and Rob S.E.W. Leuven. You can find the article with this link:

Aquatic invasions 2018 issue 4

AGU Fall Meeting participation of our ESRs Sifan and Lea

Sifan A. Koriche and Lea Rausch presented their research at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) held in Washington, DC, from December 9 – 14, 2018. The 51st AGU Fall Meeting was largest ever, with over 28,500 people coming to the capital of the US to share their science, forge connections, and enjoy the company of friends and colleagues. There were 101 countries represented, over 8000 oral presentations, 17,000 posters and 1,900 sessions.

Lea and Sifan are early stage researchers (ESRs) working under the framework of an ITN project funded by EU Horizon 2020 called PRIDE (the drivers of Pontocaspian biodiversity RIse and DEmise).

Lea gave a talk in the session “Advances in Paleoecology and Paleoclimate with Emphasis on Contextualizing Human Evolutionary History”. As part of an ecosystem, early humans played only a subordinate role in a much larger framework, consequently demanding a highly interdisciplinary approach to be able to understand the driving forces behind adaptive shifts in our evolutionary history. Within the framework of the PRIDE project, Lea is working on hominin occurrences in the Denizli Basin (Turkey) in order to assess the impact of climate and landscape dynamics on the western Anatolia region that is considered a biogeographic corridor during the Quaternary. She is working with ostracods, using them as paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic proxies, rendering them a useful tool in the field of palaeoanthropodology. 


Sifan’s poster presentation focus was on modelling of extreme Caspian Sea area change on hydroclimate processes. The research tried to address the following two questions.

  • How significant are the impacts of CS area changes on regional (CS drainage areas) hydroclimate processes?
  • How do CS area changes can affect large scale climate?

As part of an ITN project his research focus is to develop a lake basin model for Pontocaspian basin. His main activities includes investigating climate change impacts on hydrological processes and identifying the drivers of sea level change during the Quaternary period (the last 2.5 million years) using hydroclimate modelling techniques.

PRIDE article published

We are pleased to let you know that the PRIDE article Quaternary time scales for the Pontocaspian domain: Interbasinal connectivity and faunal evolution, is now available online. This is the final open access version – containing full bibliographic details.

This article is written by 7 PRIDE early stage researchers, Wout Krijgsman, other PRIDE supervisors and PRIDE partners (see below).

W. Krijgsman, A. Tesakov, T. Yanina, S. Lazarev, G. Danukalova, C.G.C. Van Baak, J. Agustí, M.C. Alçiçek, E. Aliyeva, D. Bista, A. Bruch, Y. Büyükmeriç, M. Bukhsianidze, R. Flecker, P. Frolov, T.M. Hoyle, E.L. Jorissen, U. Kirscher, S.A. Koriche, S.B. Kroonenberg, D. Lordkipanidze, O. Oms, L. Rausch, J. Singarayer, M. Stoica, S. van de Velde, V.V. Titov, F.P. Wesselingh

PRIDE-RCMNS conference in Tbilisi

From 26 to 30 August 2018 PRIDE and RCMNS organised the PRIDE-RCMNS conference in Tbilisi, Georgia: Ecosystem isolation and connection: rise and demise of biota in the Pontocaspian-Caucasian regionAround 100 persons attended the conference. The conference was the final conference of PRIDE and it was an interim colloquium of the RCMNS, the Regional Committee on Mediterranean Neogene Stratigraphy.

We organised the conference together with and at the premises of the Georgian National Museum in Tbilisi. Many thanks to professor David Lordkipanidze, the director of the Museum, to Giorgi Bezarashvili, to Nino Kokolia, Mariam Inanishvili and Dr. Maia Bukshianidze and the rest of the Georgian team that organised everything so well. And many thanks to professor David Tarkhnishvili and to Dr. Levan Mumladze of department of Ecologoy of the Tbilisi State University.

Group picture of the conference

The registration desk and wonderful Georgian organisation team

Program booklets


Program overviews

ESRs registering

ESRs checking their badge


Opening of the conference (left to right) Frank Wesselingh, Salomon Kroonenberg, Wout Krijgsman and David Lordkipanidze

Welcome and introduction by Frank Wesselingh (PRIDE Project director)

Talk of Sergei Lazarev: Reconstructing Pontocaspian interbasinal connections

The audience

Talk of Alberto Martinez Gandara: Rise and fall of the Pontocaspians

Talk of Aleksandre Gogaladze: Pontocaspian basin as a source and sink of invasive species: extent and mitigation strategies

Talk of Mikhail Karpinsky: Invasive species and their role in the Caspian ecosystem

Talk of Lea Rausch: Homo erectus paleoenvironments in the early Pleistocene Denizli Basin: an integrated paleontological, sedimentological and geochemical approach

Talk of Keith Richards: After the (Akchagylian) flood: what happened in the early to middle Pleistocene (Apsheronian-Bakunian) of the Caspian Sea?

Talk of Kateryna Kurakina (WWF Ukraine): The preservation of Sturgeon species in the Danube and Black Sea

Talk of Oriol Oms: The Neogene and Quaternary successions from Transcaucasian basins: advances from Georgia

The audience

The audience


Poster session

Poster session

Poster session


Lea Rausch participated in excavation campaign

Lea Rausch at the Caune de l’Arago (Tautavel, France) -  getting hands-on insights on Middle Pleistocene human evolution in Europe for understanding the impact of climate and landscape dynamics as constraining factors of hominine occurrences in the Denizli Basin (SW Anatolia, Turkey).

PRIDE researcher Lea Rausch participated in the 2018 excavation campaign of the Caune de l’Arago (Tautavel, France). She joined a research group excavating the level Q, a layer providing abundant anthropic accumulations of large mammals (Horse, Reindeer, Bison, Mouflon etc.) accumulated by paleohunters. The oldest human remains from France come from this level, correlated to the beginning of MIS 14 (560.000 years).

The Caune de l’Arago is a 30 m long karst cavity located 20 km north of Perpignan. Annual excavation since 1964 have yielded human remains attributed to Homo erectus tautavelensis and about 120 faunal species (Moigne et al., 2006; Lumley, 2015). The 15 m thick stratified sequence can be subdivided into 4 stratigraphic complexes, of which the “Middle Stratigraphic Complex” represents one of the most important horizons. It can be divided into three Ensembles and contains the levels K-Q at the base of Ensemble I, dated by ESR and U-series.

Lea standing on her excavation platform inside the Arago cave

The faunal association prove to present typical assemblages of the Galerian (Moigne et al., 2006), reflecting climatic changes, with the presence of taxa more related to cold or temperate environmental conditions. By participating the excavation activities Lea was introduced to excavation techniques regarding a systematic recovery of faunal and lithic discoveries as well as extending her knowledge on hominine occurrences in Europe. Within the framework of the PRIDE project, she is working on hominine occurrences in the Denizli Basin (Turkey) in order to assess the impact of climate and landscape dynamics on the western Anatolia region that is considered a biogeographic corridor during the Quaternary. She is working with ostracods, using them as paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic proxies, rendering them a useful tool in the field of paleoanthropodology. 



Alberto Martínez Gándara presented a poster at the ESOF 2018

PRIDE represented at the ESOF 2018 conference in Toulouse through Alberto Martínez Gándara

The EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) is a European meeting led by EuroScience dedicated to research and innovation. These biennial meetings are designed as a meeting point between leading scientists, researchers, young researchers, business people, entrepreneurs and innovators, policy makers, science and technology communicators and the general public.


Photo 1. Some of the ESOF stands.

Photo 2. Poster area which some of the participants getting ready for the questions.

In accordance with the PRIDE outreach policy, the Marie Curie ESR Alberto Martínez Gándara presented a poster at the ESOF 2018. In this occasion, Alberto presented an introductory poster about the main objectives of the PRIDE program, stressing the importance of the Pontocaspian species using as an example the Lymnicardiinae bivalves, his species object of study. He then had the chance to reach out about the unique biota present in the area, the ways of studying it and the faced challenges. People from diverse areas such as physics, social sciences and the press could learn about this somehow unknown biodiversity and its status, raising awareness and interesting questions to be solved.

Photo 3. Alberto and his poster, representing PRIDE.

Photo 4. Some other posters were definitely worth to check.

Photo 5. The ESOF party took place at the incredible City of Space.

Sabrina van de Velde publishes an article

Sabrina van de Velde published her first article (open access) within the PRIDE team as a co-author.

Thomas A. Neubauer, Sabrina van de Velde, Tamara Yanina, Frank P. Wesselingh,

A late Pleistocene gastropod fauna from the northern Caspian Sea with implications for Pontocaspian gastropod taxonomy


The present paper details a very diverse non-marine gastropod fauna retrieved from Caspian Pleistocene deposits along the Volga River north of Astrakhan (Russia). During time of deposition (early Late Pleistocene, late Khazarian regional substage), the area was situated in shallow water of the greatly expanded Caspian Sea. The fauna contains 24 species, of which 16 are endemic to the Pontocaspian region and 15 to the Caspian Sea. The majority of the species (13) belongs to the Pyrgulinae (Hydrobiidae), a group famous for its huge morphological variability in the Pontocaspian region. The phenotypic diversity has led to an inflation of genus and species names in the literature. New concepts are proposed for many of the genera and species found in the present material, with implications for the systematics and taxonomy of the entire Pontocaspian gastropod fauna. Laevicaspia vinarskii sp. n. is described as a new species. This contribution is considered a first step in revising the Pontocaspian gastropod fauna.

Keynote speakers PRIDE-RCMNS conference

Keynote speakers PRIDE-RCMNS conference

We are very excited that Orsolya SztanóOriol Oms, Henri J. DumontM.G. Karpinsky, David Lordkipanidzeand David Tarkhnishvili  will be keynote speakers at the PRIDE-RCMNS conference, 27-29 August 2018 in Tbilisi. 

  • Dr. Orsolya Sztanó is associate professor at the Department of Physical and Applied Geology, of the Eotvos Lorand University of Budapest. 
  • Prof. Henri J. Dumont is professor of Ecology at the Universities of Guagzhou, China and Ghent, Belgium.
  • Prof. M.G. Karpinsky is working for the Russian Federal Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography in Moscow
  • Prof. Oriol Oms  is professor of Geology at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona.
  • Prof. David Lordkipanidze is professor and director of the Georgian National Musuem in Tbilisi.
  • Prof. David Tarkhnishvili is professor of Ecology at the Ilia State University of Tbilisi.

Studies in Caspian palynology, PhD defense Keith Richards

On 16 May 2018 Keith Richards passed his PhD exam. Supervisor: Prof. H. Hooghiemstra, co-supervisor: Prof. S.B. Kroonenberg.

You can find a direct link to his thesis here:

Studies in Caspian palynology, Six million years of vegetation, climate and sea level change

This thesis highlights some of the geological, geographical and climatic events in the depositional history of the Caspian Sea, from the latest Miocene to the present day. Just over 6 million years ago, the Caspian Sea was connected to the brackish-marine Paratethyan Sea during the ‘Pontian’ regional stage, before becoming an isolated lake basin during the Pliocene. These fluvio-lacustrine sediments are studied for their palynological content. A change from steppe to forest vegetation suggests climatic warming related to the ‘Mid Pliocene Warm Period’. A return to marine conditions during the ‘Akchagyl’ regional stage at the end of the Pliocene is shown by dinoflagellate cysts and foraminifera. Marine waters may have come from the Arctic Ocean. Brackish dinocysts in the early Pleistocene ‘Apsheron’ regional stage show similarity with the Black Sea region and Eastern Europe. Late Pleistocene sediments are studied from the Emba-Ural Delta region of Kazakhstan. Desert dunes are linked with the Atelian lowstand of the Caspian Sea during MIS (Marine Isotope Stage) 4. Lagoonal deposits contain pollen from thermophilous-hygrophilous trees of East Asian affinity during MIS 3. Palynological analyses from the Volga Delta recognise four phases of Holocene delta development. Incision of the delta occurred during the Derbent lowstand at the time of the ‘Medieval Warm Period’, followed by an expansion of aquatic vegetation equated with the ‘Little Ice Age’ highstand. The Caspian Sea that we see today is the result of a continuing process of basin isolation and periodic reconnection with the world’s oceans.

Keith with his two paranymphs Chris van Baak en Tom Hoyle with Azerbaijani hat.


Keith and the members of the committee.

9th Training Event at Bristol University

From 16-19 April 2018 the 9th Training Event is organized by PRIDE researchers Diksha Bista, Manuel Sala Perez and prof. Rachel Flecker at the University of Bristol. The program comprises preparations for the final conference in Tbilisi (Georgia) in August 2018. The researchers are discussing the organization and are working on integrated talk sessions. Furthermore there is a writing retreat, with writing that contributes directly to their papers and thesis, and providing them with strategies for managing the writing and editing. There will also be preparations for the future: finding a job to apply for, CV’s, cover letters, interviews, negotiating salary. This will be led by career advisor with expertise in non-academic jobs. And there will be former MSCA-students, e.g. Medgate ESRs, who will explain their experiences on the job market.

University of Bristol

PRIDE researchers are working on integrated talks


PRIDE researchers are picking their strengths and skills cards, and doing lots of self reflection during a career planning course


Lea Rausch gave a talk at the European School on Ostracoda

3rd European School on Ostracoda, Jena (Germany), 19th – 23rd March 2018: An introduction to Ostracoda

by Lea Rausch

The European School on Ostracoda is designed to provide an overview of the taxonomy, (palaeo)ecology, biodiversity, geological history and applied biostratigraphy of ostracods. It is intended for young scientists and industrial staff interested in micropalaeontology, palaeoceanography, palaeoclimatology, biology and environmental applications. The 3rd round of the course focussed on methods and concepts of ostracodology including systematics, biostratigraphic applications, ecology and life history spanning their fossil record from the Paleozoic to the Holocene and covering the recent fauna as well. Case studies from marine and continental systems as well as practical training for identification, preparation, documentation and analysis have been an important part of the course.

For the first time this year ostracoda of Paratethyan origin were thematically highlighted and introduced by Marie-Curie Early Stage Researcher Lea Rausch. The endemic ostracod assemblages from the Paratethys play a significant role in reconstructing the paleoenvironmental evolution and connectivity in between semi-isolated basins of the Pontocaspian region. An upper Miocene ostracod assemblage from the Denizli Basin (SW Anatolia, Turkey), was used to give paleogeographic implications and helped to elucidate the role of the satellite region as source/sinks area of Pontocaspian biota.

The next course, which takes place at Friedrich Schiller University in Jena (Germany) in Spring 2019, is primarily intended for young researchers at the PhD or MSc. stages of their careers and industrial staff who intend to work with ostracoda. The course is financially supported by the “Society of Friends/Förderverein IRGO e.V.”. For further information visit

Group picture of the "European School on Ostracoda 2018" at the Geological Institute of the University Jena

Sampling of living ostracoda in the field in the “Pennickental” during the first “European School on Ostracoda” in 2016.

The international group of young ostracodologists reviewing some of the discussed species in 2016 (top) and 2018 (bottom).