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Auke-Florian Hiemstra

Dhr. A-F. (Auke-Florian) Hiemstra, Student researcher, Endless forms


Email: aukeflorian.hiemstra@naturalis.nl
Phone: 071 - 7519273
Room number: Darwinweg 2
“As a young boy in Naturalis I realised I wanted to become a biologist, and here I am, becoming one.”


Research interest


evolution, octopus, biodiversity, nautilus, cephalopods

Current research topics


The nautilus – predation & conservation

Trade in Nautilus shells

The nautilus is the only cephalopod that lives in a shell. The Naturalis Biodiversity Center harbours the largest collection of these shells in Europe. Octopus is the main predator of the Nautilus and predates by drilling the shell. This interaction has never been seen by humans, however, empty shells wash ashore and the octopus drill-holes found in them reveal their cause of death.

By understanding the biggest natural predator of Nautilus we can learn about its biggest enemy which is not natural at all, but us humans. Nautilus may face extinction due to commercial fishing for the international trade in their shells for decoration. My work in all the large European collections combined with fieldwork in Malaysia and the Philippines will shed new light on the conservation of Nautilus.

Dutch cephalopods - Past, present & future

Dutch octopus

Octopus vulgaris once lived off the Dutch coast. However, by the effects of intensified bottom trawling there has been a strong decline of Dutch octopuses since the 1960s. In a few years the species seems to have completely disappeared here. But in the last 50 years the North Sea has warmed up almost two degrees and together with a recent ban on bottom trawling this causes our Dutch waters to become more welcoming again for new populations of O. vulgaris. Finding octopus drillings in shells on our Dutch beaches could be an indicator for their presence in the North Sea again, a search in which I try to engage the broader public. Next to the search for their drillings we work with fisheries and North Sea divers who share their observations and keep looking out for Octopus.

Together with Ate de Heij and the molluscan collection manager Jeroen Goud, I work on a revised and updated overview of all Dutch cephalopods. Even without O. vulgaris, we find a great variety and diversity of cephalopods in our waters, which are of great interest and need to be better understood.

keep looking out for Octopus!




Available student projects

Public outreach

  • 3 mei 2014. Spotlight lecture, Naturalis Biodiversity Center.
  • 9 mei 2015. Spotlight lecture, Naturalis Biodiversity Center.
  • 23 juli 2015. Presented at the Focus Character Evolution, Naturalis Biodiversity Center.
  • 24 september 2015. Marien Biodiversiteits Overleg, Naturalis Biodiversity Center.
  • 11 november 2015. LiveScience. Welcome Festival. Meelfabriek, Leiden. 
  • 19 november 2015. Oral presentation. Molluscan Forum, Natural History Museum Londen, England. 
  • 12 januari 2016. Colloquium lecture. Naturalis Biodiversity Center.
  • 24 januari 2016. Science Talk. Naturalis Biodiversity Center. 
  • 1-6 februari 2016. Poster presentation,  Young Natural History scientists Meeting, Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, Paris. 
  • 12 februari 2016. Poster presentation, VLIZ Marine Scientist Day, Brugge, Belgium.
  • 10 april 2016. Wadgids training, Waddenvereniging, Ecomare, Texel.
  • 16 mei 2016. Science talk. Naturalis Biodiversity Center.
  • 24 july 2016. Oral presentation. World Congress Malacology, Penang, Malaysia. 
  • 29 july 2016. Oral presentation. Marine Station, San Carlos University, Cebu, Philippines.
  • 14 september 2016. Oral presentation. W&T café, Hortus, Leiden. 
  • 28 september 2016. Fantastic Life symposium. Oral presentation. Hortus Botanicus Leiden. 
  • 12 oktober 2016. Graduation talk. Oral presentation. Leiden University. 
  • 14 oktober 2016. Oral presentation. Study Abroad Festival, Leiden University.
  • 26 oktober 2016. Short presentation. PechaKucha Night Leiden, Gebr. de Nobel, Leiden. 

Presenter as 'animal expert' of the Dutch children's TV program 'Willem Wever'.



Journals SCI, peer-reviewed

Hiemstra, A-F. 2015. Recognizing cephalopod boreholes in shells and the northward spread of Octopus vulgaris Cuvier, 1797 (Cephalopoda, Octopodoidea) Vita Malacologica 13: 53-56
Go to website (Open Access)

Octopus vulgaris  uit de Noordzee


Octopus boring in Nautilus

Octopus boring in Nautilus shell