Staff at the Directorate Taxonomy and Phylogeny study animal biodiversity and evolution, and more specifically, speciation, adaptation, biotic interactions and integrative taxonomy. They pay particular attention to the identification of new taxa (primarily via DNA barcoding), the impact of invasive species, the importance of chemical communication in insects, the effects of habitat disruption, the reconstruction of phylogenetic relations and the creationism versus evolution debate.
The Directorate Taxonomy and Phylogeny possesses significant expertise in the taxonomy of mammals, reptiles, fish, echinoderms (Echinodermata), crustaceans (Crustacea), spiders (Arachnids), the different groups of insects, molluscs (Mollusca), annelids (partim: Oligochaeta), roundworms (Nematoda) and sponges (Porifera).
Our vast collections offer a wealth of reference and study specimens for our researchers who also occasionally work in the field, mainly in Belgium, Antarctica, the Congo Basin, the Galapagos Islands, South East Asia and Macaronesia.
The research undertaken in the laboratories is multidisciplinary – anatomy, microscopy, bioinformatics and, in the Molecular Systematics Laboratory, DNA analysis – and uses the latest technologies such as new generation DNA sequencing (NGS), computed tomography and species distribution modelling.
Although research at the Directorate Taxonomy and Phylogeny is generally fundamental in nature, it also offers applications such as the construction of biodiversity databases (public), the development and application of identification methods and the further development of reference collections.
The directorate also places great importance on services and activities for the general public, organising ‘behind the scenes’ tours, conferences and seminars; identifying specimens; supporting ‘citizen science’ initiatives; publishing general scientific articles and answering questions from the media and public.