Article published by ESRs Arthur F. Sands and Sergei Lazarev et al (2019)

We are happy to let you know that a new PRIDE article has been published in the Journal of Biogeography:

Contributions of biogeographical functions to species accumulation may change over time in refugial regions
by Arthur F. Sands, Sergej V. Sereda, Björn Stelbrink, Thomas A. Neubauer, Sergei Lazarev, Thomas Wilke and Christian Albrecht
Journal of Biogeography 46:1274–1286 (2019)

Elevated biodiversity is the result of the cradle, museum or sink functions. The contributions of these three functions to species accumulation and their changes through time remain unknown for glacial refugia. Additionally, our understanding of the role these functions played during pre‐glacial periods is limited. We test for changes in contributions of functions through time leading to the current diversity patterns using a model refugium and taxon.

Anatolia, Western Palaearctic.

Freshwater neritid snails (genus Theodoxus).

The open-access article can be found here

New publication by ESRs Sabrina van de Velde et al (2019)

We are happy to let you know that a new PRIDE article has been published in the Journal of Great Lakes Research:

The Late Pleistocene mollusk fauna of Selitrennoye (Astrakhan province, Russia): A natural baseline for endemic Caspian Sea faunas
by Sabrina van de Velde, Tamara A.Yanin, Thomas A.Neubauer and Frank P. Wesselingh
 J. Great Lakes Res. 1–13, 2019


The native Caspian Sea fauna underwent severe changes since the early 20th century, mostly due to anthropogenic activities. However, the nature, magnitude and rate of biodiversity change can only be assessed by comparison with natural baseline settings. A mostly in-situ mollusk fauna retrieved from Late Pleistocene (Hyrcanian, 107 ± 7 ka) deposits at Selitrennoye (Astrakhan province, Russia) provides a snapshot of a natural Caspian assemblage. In total, 24 gastropod and 13 bivalve species were identified. The fauna is predominantly endemic/native (94% in species numbers and 99% in abundance) and is dominated by three families (Cardiidae, Dreissenidae and Hydrobiidae). The Selitrennoye assemblage is a natural baseline of a pre-invasive Caspian Sea fauna living in a shallow (15–25 m), lower mesohaline (5–8 psu) open lake environment. The species-rich Selitrennoye fauna contrasts with the largely depleted and invasive-dominated fauna that currently occupies similar habitats in the Caspian Sea and underlines the magnitude of the current biodiversity crisis.

Pontocaspian; Biodiversity; Turnover; Extinction; Quaternary; Mollusca

The open-access article can be found here

New PRIDE research published by ESRs Thomas M. Hoyle & Manuel Sala-Pérez et al (2019)

We are happy to let you know that a new PRIDE article has been published in the Journal of Micropalaeontology:

Where should we draw the lines between dinocyst “species”? Morphological continua in Black Sea dinocysts
by Thomas M. Hoyle, Manuel Sala-Pérez, and Francesca Sangiorgi
J. Micropalaeontol., 38, 55–65, 2019


The morphology of dinoflagellate cysts (dinocysts) is related not only to the genetics of the motile dinoflagellate from which it derives, but is also dependent on a range of environmental factors including salinity, temperature and nutrient status. Although this knowledge improves our understanding of the drivers behind dinocyst morphological variations, it makes the taxonomy governing their description somewhat complex. In basins such as the Black Sea, where environmental change can be extreme and occurs on relatively short (millennial) timescales, taxonomy becomes particularly challenging. Morphological continua can be observed between described forms, displaying a large range of intermediate phenotypes that do not necessarily correspond to any genetic difference. As these morphological nuances may preserve information about palaeoenvironments, it is important to find a systematic method of characterising morphotypes. Here, we show a dinocyst matrix within which dinocysts are described according to their similarity to (or difference from) described forms based on key descriptive parameters. In the example set out here, cyst shape and degree of process and/or ectophragm development are taken as two key parameters in Pyxidinopsis psilata and Spiniferites cruciformis, and can allow the description of intermediate forms even though the definitions do not overlap.

We review some frequently occurring morphotypes and propose that using matrices to show the gradual variation between endmember forms is the most pragmatic approach until cyst–theca studies and genetic sequencing can be used to demonstrate relationships between genotypes and morphotypes. As prior studies propose salinity to be a primary driver of intraspecific variability, the endmembers presented may represent salinity extremes within an overall brackish environment. Although we cannot assign each morphotype to a value or a range of an environmental parameter (e.g. salinity) as the different morphotypes can occur in the same sample, using this matrix allows preservation of information about morphological variability without creating taxonomic categories that are likely to require alteration if genetic evidence becomes available.

The open-access article can be found here

PRIDE article published by ESR Matteo Lattuada et al (2019)

We are pleased to let you know that a new article about PRIDE research has been published in Marine Pollution Bulletin:

Differential impact of anthropogenic pressures on Caspian Sea ecoregions
by Matteo Lattuada, Christian Albrecht and Thomas Wilke


Over the past decades, overall ecological conditions in the Caspian Sea have deteriorated. However, a comprehensive understanding of lake-wide spatial differences in anthropogenic pressures is lacking and the biological consequences of human impacts are poorly understood. This paper therefore aims at assessing the individual and combined effects of critical anthropogenic pressures on the Caspian Sea ecoregions. First, cumulative pressure scores were calculated with a cumulative environmental assessment (CEA) analysis. Then, the individual contribution of anthropogenic pressures was quantified. Finally, ecoregion-specific differences were assessed. The analyses show that both cumulative and individual pressure scores are unevenly distributed across the Caspian Sea. The most important individual pressures are invasive species, chemical pollution and poaching. This uneven distribution of pressure scores across Caspian Sea ecoregions creates new challenges for future conservation strategies, as different ecoregions usually require different conservation measures.

The open-access article can be found here.

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.