Dr. Thomas Wesener

Zoologist - Myriapodologist

Research Museum A. Koenig

Department Myriapoda

Adenauerallee 160

D-53113 Bonn






Starting with my diploma-thesis, my research interests lie in the taxonomy and phylogeny of Diplopoda (Millipedes), especially those from Madagascar. Madagascar, as one of the eight richest biodiversity 'hotspots' on our planet, hosts a very unique inventory of Diplopoda. Unfortunately, even the number of species, their ecology and natural history are completely unknown. Most species descriptions are more than 100 years old. Reviews of millipede collections of U.S.-American institutions and own collections indicate that Madagascar still hosts a very high number of still undescribed giant-pill millipede species.

My research focuses on the description of species new to science of the giant-pill millipede order Sphaerotheriida. This enigmatic millipede order is present on Madagascar with a very unique, extraordinarily rich assemblage of species. Some sphaerotheriidian species of Madagascar are with up to 100 mm body length and a width of about 55 mm the biggest representatives of this order worldwide and maybe the heaviest millipedes too. The role which these macroinvertebrates play in the Malagasy ecosystem still remain unclear. I try to improve the taxonomy of this group and work on the function of their (in the whole Diplopoda unique) stridulation organs and on the evolution and biodiversity of this tribe on  Madagascar. My study target also is the finding of invertebrate biodiversity hotspots on Madagascar. This search for hotspots of invertebrate biodiversity is urgent due to impending conservation disasters. Up to 90% of the Malagasy natural vegetation has been destroyed. At least three ecosystems on Madagascar belong to the most threatened ecosystems of the world. So, taxonomic studies are urgent, because in the next ten years many of the Malagasy pill millipede species, now present in the museum collections all around the world, might get extinct while not even named. The prognosis of R.L. Hoffman, an 'Altmeister' of Diplopoda is then reality:

"As regards to the species [of Diplopoda], exact counts are quite impossible now, although some 10,000 have been named so far. I shared with C.A.W. Jeekel the opinion that the actual number of extant species may be near 80,000. Probably most of these will never be collected, considering the world-wide destruction of indigenuos forests." Hoffman 1979