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Frank Wesselingh

Dr. F.P. (Frank) Wesselingh, Senior researcher - Marine Biodiversity, Fossil Mollusca


Email: frank.wesselingh@naturalis.nl
Phone: +31 (0)71-56 87 663
Room number: C.02.10, Darwinweg 2
“I am triggered by the mind-boggling variety of fossiel shell forms.”

Whenever I look at the mind-boggling variety of fossil shell forms, my scientific curiousity is triggered. As a researcher and curator of the fossil molluscs of Naturalis, I feel privileged to immerse myself in a collection of over 400.000 samples, covering a diversity in shell forms, sizes and textures that inspire any inquisitive mind to ask questions and seek understanding.

I try to document and understand the drivers behind biodiversity change (turnover) in the geological past, especially the role of changing landscapes in driving community and biodiversity change. Molluscs are ideally suited to perform such investigations as they fossilize well, and contain abundant palaeoecological and taphonomic information. And they keep amazing me.


Already from the age of four I have been collecting minerals and fossils. After a study in Earth Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam I continued as a curator (later researcher) at Naturalis. At the same time I engaged in my PhD on Amazonian landscape and biota during the Neogene at the Biology faculty, Turku University, Finland. Currently I am staff researcher with scientific curatorial responsibilities at Naturalis.


Research interest

I use fossil molluscs, their sedimentological and geochemical context and autecological properties to reconstruct their depositional environments, to assess community composition and to study pattern of biodiversity change (turnover).


quaternary, taphonomy, landscape evolution, evolution, taxonomy, extinction, neogene, palaeoecology, biodiversity turnover, fossil molluscs, immigration, long-lived lakes, north sea basin

Current research topics


All of my research and collection activities have emerged in close collaboration with other scientists, collection specialists and amateurs. The list below, arranged according to my projects, is by no means exhaustive.

Pontocaspian Lake Basin evolution and biodiversity change
Currently I am developing research Lines in the Pontocaspian region. Exisiting cooperations include those with Hülya Alçiçek and Cihat Alçiçek (Pammukale University, Denizli Turkey), Yesim Islamoglu (MTA, Ankara, Turkey), Vitaliy Anistratenko (RAS-ZIN, Kiev, Ukraine) and Tamara Yanina (MSU, Moscow, Russia).

Molluscan extinctions and turnover in the Pliocene and Quaternary of the North Sea Basin
This research is carried out in close collaboration with various collaegues and amateurs: Ronald Pouwer (Naturalis), Freddy van Nieulande (Naturalis), and the late Anton Janse (Naturalis) and among many others.

Anton Janse is also the driving force behind the analyses of the so-called Deltadienst boreholes: a large set of boreholes taken in the SW Netherlands that contain a very abundant record of biodiversity change during the Pliocene-Quaternary.

Molluscan diversifications in the Neogene and Quaternary of Southeast Asia
With Willem Renema (Naturalis), I continuously work on this and other projects and programs. This happens through the ITN-Throughflow program as well as through a variety of projects.

Willem Renema and I also collaborate on gastropod morphometry of long-lived lake gastropods and analyses of fossil communities through time in the North Sea Basin and elsewhere.

The Indonesian projects are in close cooperation with Aries Kusworo (PNG, Bandung) and the Throughflow team. Currently, Sonja Reich is finishing her PhD study on the diversification of seagrass associated mollusc association during the Neogene of the IWP.

Amazonian landscape evolution and the rise of Amazonian biodiversity
Carina Hoorn (IBED-UvA) has been my long-time collaborator and the driving force behind the South American research on the link between Amazonian landscape evolution and biotic development.

Reconstructing palaeoenvironments of early man
Through Jose Joordens (Archeologie-UL) I am involved in the reconstruction of Pleistocene hominid habitats of Trinil (Java, Indonesia).


Fossil mollusc collection

Naturalis houses the leading Southeast Asia collection of fossil molluscs. Our institute also accommodates a wide ranging fossil mollusc collection from Europe. And we also have a very large and mostly well accessible collection of Cenozoic molluscs.

In total, our fossil mollusc collections contain about 400.000 lots. It is primarily situated at the 13th Floor of the Naturalis collection tower.

The collections have been brought together by researchers and amateurs alike. The single biggest contributor is Arie W. Janssen, my predecessor.

My own involvement with the collections in the past 15 years includes a major rehousing (1998), and establishing type catalogues of the so called Martin-collection (van den Hoek Ostende et al., 2003; Leloux & Wesselingh, 2010). The Martin collection of Neogene and Quaternary shells from Java is housed in five cabinets. It contains almost 2.000 type lots.

For extensive information about our fossil mollusc collections, please contact our collection manager Ronald Pouwer.

The Martin collection



Available student projects

Public outreach


NRC artikel strandfossielen (2010).

Public lectures

Het ontstaan van Nederland (Sciencelink 2013).





Highlighted publications

Busschers, F.S., Wesselingh, F., Kars, R.H., Versluijs-Helder, M., Wallinga, J., Bosch, J.H.A., Timmner, J., Nierop, K.G.J., Meijer, T., Bunnik, F.P.M. & De Wolf, H. 2014. Radiocarbon Dating of Late Pleistocene Marine Shells from the Southern North Sea. Radiocarbon, 56: 1151-1166.

Taviani, M., Angeletti, L., Çagatay, M.N., Gasperini, L., Polonia, A. & Wesselingh, F.P. 2014. Sedimentary and faunal signatures of the post-glacial marine drowning of the Pontocaspian Gemlik “lake” (Sea of Marmara). Quaternary International, 345: 11-17.

Reich, S., Wesselingh, F. & Renema, W. 2014. A highly diverse molluscan seagrass fauna from the early Burdigalian (early Miocene) of Banyunganti (south-central Java, Indonesia). Annalen des Naturhistorischen Museums in Wien Serie A., 116: 5–129.

Slupik, A.A., Wesselingh, F.P., Mayhew, D.F., Janse, A.C., Dieleman, F.E., van Strydonck, M.,

Kiden, P., Burger, A.W. & Reumer, J.W.F. 2013. The role of a proto-Schelde River in the genesis of the southwestern Netherlands, inferred from the Quaternary successions and fossils in Moriaanshoofd Borehole (Zeeland, the Netherlands). Netherlands Journal of Geosciences 92: 69-85.

Hoorn, C., Wesselingh, F.P., Steege, H. ter, Bermudez, M.A., Mora, A., Sevink, J., Sanmartin, I.,

Sanchez-Meseguer, A., Anderson, C.L., Figueiredo, J.P., Jaramillo, C., Riff, D., Negri, F.R., Hooghiemstra, H., Lundberg, J., Stadler, T., Saerkinen, T. & A. Antonelli. 2011. Origins of Biodiversity Response. Science 331: 399-400.

Wesselingh, F.P. & Moerdijk, P.W. (eds.). 2010. Fossiele schelpen van de Nederlandse Kust. NCB Naturalis, Leiden. 332 pp.

Hoorn, C. & Wesselingh, F.P. (eds.). 2010. Amazonia, landscape and species evolution. Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford. 447 pp.

Leloux, J. & Wesselingh, F.P. 2009. Types of Cenozoic Mollusca from Java in the Martin Collection of Naturalis. NNM Technical Bulletin, 11: 1-765.

Joordens, J.C.A., Wesselingh, F.P., Vos, J. de, Vonhof, H.B. & Kroon, D. 2009. Relevance of aquatic environments for hominins: a case study from Trinil (Java, Indonesia ). Journal of Human Evolution, 57: 656-671.

Wesselingh, F.P., Alcicek, H., & Magyar, I. 2008. A Late Miocene Paratethyan type mollusc fauna from the Denizli Basin (southwestern Anatolia, Turkey) and its regional palaeobiogeographic implications. Geobios, 41: 861-879. 

Wijnker, E., Bor, T.J., Wesselingh, F.P., Munsterman, D.K., Brinkhuis, H., Burger, A.W.,

Vonhof, H.B., Post, K., Hoedemakers, C., Janse., A.C. & Taverne, N. 2008. Neogene stratigraphy of the Langenboom locality (Noord-Brabant, the Netherlands). Netherlands Journal of Geosciences, 87: 165-180.

Renema, W., Bellwood, D.R., Braga, J.C., Bromfield, K., Hall, R., Johnson, K.G., Lunt, P.,

Meyer, C.P., McMonagle, L., Morley, R.J., O’dea, A., Todd, J.A., Wesselingh, F.P., Wilson, M.E.J.& Pandolfi, J.M. 2008. Hopping Hotspots: global shifts in marine biodiversity. Science, 321: 654-657 41.

Kroonenberg, S.B., Abdurakhmanov, G.M., Badyukova, E.N., van der Borg, K, Kalashnikov, A, Kasimov, N.S., Rychagov, G.I., Svitoch, A.A., Vonhof, H.B. & Wesselingh, F.P. 2007. Solar-forced 2600 BP and Little Ice Age highstands of the Caspian Sea. Quaternary International, 173-174: 137-143.

Wesselingh, F.P., Kaandorp, R.J.G., Vonhof, H.B., Räsänen M.E., & Renema, W. 2006. The nature of aquatic landscapes in the Miocene of western Amazonia: an integrated palaeontological and geochemical approach. Scripta Geologica, 133: 363-393.

Wesselingh, F.P. 2006. Molluscs from the Miocene Pebas Formation of Peruvian and Colombian Amazonia. Scripta Geologica, 133: 19-290.

Wesselingh, F.P.& Salo, J. 2006. A Miocene perspective on the evolution of Amazonian biota. Scripta Geologica, 133: 439-458.

Kaandorp, R.J.G., Vonhof, H.B., Wesselingh, F.P., Romero Pittman, L., Kroon, D. & Hinte, J.E. van. 2005. Seasonal Amazonian rainfall variation in the Miocene climate optimum. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 221: 1-6.

Vonhof, H.B., Wesselingh, F.P., Kaandorp, R.J.G., Davies, G.R., van Hinte, J.E., Guerrero,  J., Räsänen, M., Romero-Pitmann, L. & Ranzi, A. 2003. Paleogeography of Miocene  western Amazonia: isotopic composition of molluscan shells constrains the influence of marine incursions. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 115: 983-993.

Wesselingh, F.P., Räsänen, M.E., Irion, G., Vonhof, H.B., Kaandorp, R., Renema, W., Romero Pittman, L. & Gingras, M. 2002. Lake Pebas: a palaeoecological reconstruction of a Miocene, long-lived lake complex in western Amazonia, Cainozoic Research, 1: 35-81.

Lundberg, J.G., Marshall, L.G., Guerrero, J., Horton, B., Malabarba, M.C.S.L. & Wesselingh, F. 1998. The stage for Neotropical fish diversification: a history of tropical South American rivers. In: Reis, R.E., Vari, R.P., Lucena, Z.M. & Lucena, C.A.S. (eds.), Phylogeny and Classification of Neotropical Fishes: 13-48 Edipucrs, Porto Alegre.

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