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Challenges for taxonomic research in the age of '-omics‘ technologies

Discover, name, classify – even as far back as the time of Carl Linnaeus, these were the first steps any biologists took in their work. To this day, the classification of the living world (taxonomy) remains important, because new species are continually being discovered. Taxonomy contributes greatly to the preservation of biodiversity, and is an important foundation for the practical application of personalised medicine.

The molecular biology revolution, which is becoming increasingly dominated by high throughput sequencing methods in genomics and proteomics, has opened up new possibilities for taxonomy. Great numbers of hitherto unknown species are being discovered, and for the first time speciation can be examined at the level of complete genetic information and its expression. This gives rise to reasonable hope of reconciling the inevitably “artificial” system of classification, which generally reflects human interests, with the findings of evolutionary research.

However, this abundance of data also causes problems. Molecular taxonomy is not necessarily better than a classification based on phenotypic characteristics. An expert group of biologists and medical doctors has analysed the field of taxonomy, particularly with regard to the opportunities presented by “-omics” technologies (genomics, metagenomics, metabolomics and proteomics).  The group’s aim was to inform decision-makers of the importance of taxonomy and to define key research areas. With this in mind, the experts focused on two main areas: 1) the conceptual design of taxonomy; 2) the resulting recommendations for reorganising and expanding the structure of the research landscape in those fields relevant to taxonomy.

Both areas were considered from the perspective of: i) botany and mycology, ii) microbiology and medical microbiology, iii) zoology. The first area is mainly concerned with describing the status quo, identifying problems, and making innovative proposals for creating meaningful links between existing directions and concepts in taxonomy. The second area formulates a recommendation for the necessary structural changes (identified in the first area) which will ensure that implementing the new conceptual direction is a realistic endeavour.

Spokesperson of the Working Group

  • Prof. Dr. Rudolf Amann ML
    Max-Planck-Institut für Marine Mikrobiologie Bremen, Abteilung Molekulare Ökologie


  • Prof. Dr. Gerhard Braus
    Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Fakultät für Biologie und Psychologie, Abteilung Molekulare Mikrobiologie und Genetik
  • PD Dr. Birgit Gemeinholzer
    Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen, AG Spezielle Botanik
  • Prof. Dr. Jörg Hacker ML
    Nationale Akademie der Wissenschaften Leopoldina, Halle
  • Dr. Christoph Häuser
    Museum für Naturkunde Leibniz-Institut für Evolutions- und Biodiversitätsforschung Berlin
  • Dr. Regine Jahn
    Botanischer Garten und Botanisches Museum Berlin-Dahlem, Freie Universität Berlin
  • Dipl.-Biol. Volker Lohrmann
    Museum für Naturkunde Leibniz-Institut für Evolutions- und Biodiversitätsforschung Berlin
  • PD Dr. Carsten Lüter
    Museum für Naturkunde Leibniz-Institut für Evolutions- und Biodiversitätsforschung Berlin
  • Prof. Dr. Axel Meyer ML
    Universität Konstanz, Fakultät Biologie, Lehrstuhl für Zoologie/Evolutionsbiologie
  • Prof. Dr. Bernhard Misof
    Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig, Bonn, Abteilung Molekulare Biodiversitätsforschung
  • Dr. Michael Raupach
    Deutsches Zentrum für Marine Biodiversitätsforschung, Senckenberg am Meer Wilhelmshaven, Abteilung Molekulare Taxonomie
  • Prof. Dr. Susanne Renner ML
    Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Fakultät für Biologie, Systematische Botanik und Mykologie
  • PD Dr. Christian Roos
    Deutsches Primatenzentrum – Leibniz-Institut für Primatenforschung, Abteilung Primatengenetik
  • Dr. Ramon Rossello-Mora
    Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies IMEDEA, Esporles, Spanien, Abteilung für Marine Mikrobiologie
  • Prof. Dr. Karl-Heinz Schleifer
    Technische Universität München, Wissenschaftszentrum Weihenstephan für Ernährung, Landnutzung und Umwelt
  • Prof. Dr. Sebastian Suerbaum ML
    Medizinische Hochschule Hannover, Institut für Medizinische Mikrobiologie und Krankenhaushygiene
  • Prof. Dr. Miguel Vences
    Technische Universität Braunschweig, Zoologisches Institut
  • Prof. Dr. Johannes Vogel
    Museum für Naturkunde Leibniz-Institut für Evolutions- und Biodiversitätsforschung Berlin
  • Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Wägele
    Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig, Bonn

ML = Member of the Leopoldina



Dr. Henning Steinicke

Scientific Officer, Department Science - Policy - Society

Phone 0345 - 47 239 - 864
Fax 0345 - 47 239 - 839
E-Mail henning.steinicke @leopoldina.org