The Struck Lab














2017 / 08/ 17


After field work all are back in Oslo now

We had a quite successful season this year (especially Jose). Collection of Stygocapitella around the Northern hemisphere has been successfully finished. The last trip this year is going to the Red Sea for Asmaa's project.

2017 / 03/ 27


Spiralian phylogeny remains a tough nut to crack

The phylogenetic relationships within Spiralia and Lophotrochozia remains one of the major challenges in animal evolution. Please see our new publication in Systematic Biology (Kocot et al.)

2016 / 05/ 15


Asmaa arrived from Egypt visiting my lab for two years

Asmaa is finishing her PhD thesis and got a fellowship from the Egyptian government to conduct her research in my lab on polychaetes from Egypt. Welcome Asmaa and a good start in Oslo.

2015 / 12/ 01


Jose started his PhD position today

Welcome Jose as the first member of the Struck lab in Oslo. Jose will work on the species complex of Stygocapitella subterranea using phylogeographic and population genomic approaches.

2015 / 09 / 04


New position started at the Natural History Museum of UiO

At the 1st I started as a Professor of Evolutionary Genomics at the University of Oslo. I am now also Curator of the Helminth collection. Please see my new contact information below.

2015 / 07 / 23


Our analyses on interstitial annelids got published in Current Biology.

In these analyses we showed that the interstitial annelid grouped into groups. Given our results the interstitial realm was inhabited by two evolutionary trajectories.

2015 / 03 / 27


Mitochondrial genomes support monophyly of Gnathifera.

We were able to determine the first mitochondrial genomes for Gnathostomulida and Gastrotricha.

2015 / 03 / 11


First paper on fossils.

My first paper on a fossil is out in the Proceedings of the Royal Society. Thanks Joachim for getting me involved.

2014 / 08 / 26


The Heisenberg fellwoship got extended for two more years.

Good news on my own part. My fellowship was evaluated positively and I have two more years doing my research. Stay tuned.

2014 / 05 / 06


Two new phylogenomic paper are publishec in MBE.

We published two new papers addressing annelid and spiralian phylogeny, respectively, in MBE. Check them out.

2014/ 03 / 31


BaCoCa and TreSpEx manuscripts have been printed now.

Now the manuscripts discribing both programs have been printed.

2013 / 10 / 06


TreSpEx new version is released.

I have released now the version v1 of TreSpEx including a manual, example files and precompiled databases.

2013 / 10 / 06


BaCoCa new version is released.

As MPE accepted our paper on BaCoCa. We have released now the Alpha version.


2013 / 04 / 19


New paper about Diurodrilidae is out.

Congratulations to Anja for the paper published in MPE on the position of Diurodrilidae using mitochondrial genomes.


2013 / 02 / 11


Webpage is online!

Hi all, I moved my web presence to this page, so that it is more independent of my chaniging work places. It will be under construction for some time, but enjoy exploring it anyway.



Torsten H. Struck

Professor of Evolutionary Genomics

Curator of the Helmint collection

Department of Research and Collections

Natural History Museum


Postal address:

PO Box 1172 Blindern

N-0318 Oslo



Visiting address:

Room 209

Zoological Museum

Sars gate 1

0562 Oslo



phone: +47-228-51740



Another aspect of our research addresses the dispersal potential and, hence, rate of speciation in interstitial taxa such as some annelids or gastrotrichs as little is known about these. This will also provide insights into the evolution of cryptic species as interstitial species are good models for this topic.

Many interstitial species possess neither good swimming capacities as adults or juveniles nor pelagic larvae and hence speciation by isolation-by-distance is generally assumed. However, results from Bachelor theses in my laboratory showed ecological factors such as grain size or influence of sea-level changes due to glaciations have a strong impact on the recent distribution and the historical extent of dispersal. However, generally little is known about the biological and ecological factors influencing the dispersal potential of interstitial taxa. In addition, some of the interstitial taxa are very well adapted to extreme environments such as methane seeps, which are characterized by extremely low oxygen and high, toxic sulfide concentrations.

To unravel the evolutionary potential of worms with small body sizes we assess the dispersal potential and reconstruct events shaping the recent distribution of interstitial organisms based on a broad taxonomic scale starting with annelid taxa (e.g., Stygocapitella subterranea) and using molecular marker systems such as mitochondrial and nuclear genes as well as RAD sequencing. Using comparative studies of different interstitial metazoan general principals responsible in limiting the dispersal of interstitial species can be deduced. Moreover, such studies as well as principals allow better guidelines for conservation policies of interstitial habitats. For example, there is a strong economic interest in exploiting methane seeps as a source of natural gas, which would endanger the unique fauna inhabiting the seeps. An important aspect of these projects is also to sample at multiple geographical scales within a species or species complex and to assess ecological features of the habitat such as water saturation, content of organic matter, or grain size.

Our research on extreme environments :


Polychaetes of different taxa inhabit environments with very low oxygen concentration and extremely high hydrogen sulfide concentrations (e.g. hot spots, methane seeps, whale falls). Hydrogen sulfide, a compound highly toxic to marine life, is widespread in organic-rich, continental margin sediments where organic matter provides substrate for anaerobic sulfate reducing microbes. Sulfide is toxic to most taxa at micromolar and higher levels. Yet methane seep sediments with sulfide concentrations of 5-20 mM and little or no oxygen support dense assemblages of different dorvilleid species in high densities of >11,000 individuals per m2.


Within an interdisciplinary NSF project we investigated the adaptation of such taxa to extreme environments covering the fields of biogeochemistry, physiology, ecology, and evolutionary biology. The hypothesis is that this annelid group, through exceptional tolerance to low oxygen and high sulfide concentrations, has found a niche, which it alone is able to exploit, and as a result has experienced evolutionary release in the absence of predators and competitors. Exploring mechanisms of niche partitioning including sulfide tolerance and preference, diet differences, reproductive variation, and degree of evolutionary separation we want to identify the ecological, physiological and evolutionary adaptations that allow multi-species assemblages of dorvilleids to persist under sulfide conditions that are toxic to most other species.

Parougia sp. and Ophryotrocha maciolekia of Hydrate Ridge.