Jump to content Jump to navigation

Katja Peijnenburg

K.T.C.A. (Katja) Peijnenburg, Research fellow - Marine Biodiversity


Email: katja.peijnenburg@naturalis.nl
Phone: +31 (0)617419693
Room number: Darwinweg 2, room C02.14
“From the first moment I saw a petridish full of plankton, I knew I wanted to study this incredible diversity and find out how it evolves in the open sea.”

I have had a soft spot for invertebrates (animals without spines) for as long as I can remember. My fascination with marine life probably stems from my summer vacations spent at the beaches of Zeeland, where me and my sister had crabs as pets. My research is motivated by a fundamental interest in the drivers of marine biodiversity. I want to know how this diversity evolved in an environment that seems to lack any obvious isolating barriers. I am also increasingly worried about our oceans and wonder whether marine organisms will be able to adapt to rapid 21st century global change. I feel privileged to work as a scientist and am always eager to share my enthusiasm with anyone interested. 


I hold a position as Research Fellow at Naturalis Biodiversity Center. I obtained my PhD at the University of Amsterdam in 2005 with a thesis entitled 'Structure at Open Sea. Genetics of Zooplankton Populations'. After working as a postdoctoral research fellow at University College Dublin for two years, I obtained a personal VENI grant to pursue my research interests in marine zooplankton evolution.

Memberships of international scientific boards and editorial boards


Research interest

My overall research goal is to understand how marine zooplankton evolve. I also seek to understand whether zooplankton have significant capacity for adaptive responses to recent climate change. My research focuses on two abundant groups in the plankton: chaetognaths (arrow worms) and pteropods (sea butterflies), both of which are important indicators of changes in our oceans. My approach is to identify and characterise patterns of biodiversity (at species as well as genetic levels) and interpret these within a spatial and temporal context. I combine data from multiple sources, such as morphology, genetics, transcriptomics, oceanography, and paleontology. 

Watch a video explaining results from our recent review on the evolutionary potential of marine zooplankton (or read the paper).


phylogeography, evolution, genomics, population genetics, morphometrics, marine zooplankton, ocean acidification, pteropods, chaetognaths, climate change

Current research topics

Marine biodiversity and species boundaries

I take a multidisciplinary approach combining data from multiple sources (morphology, genetics, ecology, biogeography) to assess species boundaries. I also use phylogenetic, coalescent and molecular clock approaches to reveal demographic and evolutionary histories of species.

Population genomics and biogeography of Atlantic zooplankton

This research draws on samples and oceanographic data collected along a 13,500 km transect in the Atlantic ocean collected in association with the Atlantic Meridional Transect (AMT) programme.  

Evolution in marine lakes

Marine lakes are land-locked water bodies that maintain a marine character through narrow (submarine) connections to the sea. They can be considered inside-out islands, and provide unique opportunities to study the evolutionary history as well as evolutionary rates of marine biota.

Photograph showing two adult arrow worms (chaetognaths) belonging to the same species: Sagitta setosa. The large one was collected from a marine lake on the island of Mljet and the small one in the adjacent Adriatic Sea. Photo courtesy of Rade Garic.

Adaptive potential of pteropods

Shelled pteropods or sea butterflies are planktonic gastropods, snails adapted to live in the open ocean. Because of their thin and soluble aragonite shells, they have received considerable recent interest as possible bioindicators of the effects of ocean acidification. However, we know nothing about their evolutionary potential. My research aims to fill this gap.

Figure showing (from left to right) the pteropods Limacina bullimoides, Styliola subula, and Heliconoides inflata (pictures by Goetze & Peijnenburg taken on the Atlantic Meridional Transect cruise in 2012).


Supervision PhDs


Burridge, A.K. Evolution of planktonic gastropods. University of Amsterdam.



I contribute lectures and/or practicals to the following courses:

  • Evolution Biology, BSc course, University of Amsterdam
  • Marine Biology, BSc course, University of Amsterdam
  • Turning points in evolutionary biology, Beta-Gamma BSc course, University of Amsterdam
  • Methods in Biodiversity Analysis, MSc course, University of Leiden
  • Genomic Architecture, MSc course, University of Leiden

I regularly supervise BSc and MSc student's research projects. Come and talk to me to discuss the possibilities (or drop me an email).

Available student projects

Public outreach

I enjoy contributing to outreach. I have regular public talks at Live Science in Naturalis and during 'Weekend van de Wetenschap'.

Some examples:

Radio item with Vroege Vogels (september 2013): plankton onder de loep (in Dutch)

News item for TV with EenVandaag (december 2012) about ocean acidification (in Dutch)

I write a blog for Dutch schoolchildren on zooplankton and ocean science (in Dutch)



Journals SCI, peer-reviewed

Burridge A.K., Tump M., Vonk R., Goetze E., Peijnenburg K.T.C.A. 2017. Diversity and distribution of hyperiid amphipods along a latitudinal transect in the Atlantic Ocean. Progress in Oceanography: pending.
Go to website (DOI)


Journals SCI, peer-reviewed

Wall-Palmer D., Smart C.W., Kirby R., Hart M.B., Peijnenburg K.T.C.A., Janssen A.W. 2016. A review of the ecology, palaeontology and distribution of atlantid heteropods (Caenogastropoda: Pterotracheoidea: Atlantidae). Journal of Molluscan Studies 82: 221-234.
Go to website (DOI)

Wall-Palmer D., Burridge A.K., Peijnenburg K.T.C.A. 2016. Atlanta ariejansseni, a new species of shelled heteropod from the Southern Subtropical Convergence Zone (Gastropoda, Pterotracheoidea). ZooKeys 604: 13-30.
Go to website (URI)

Burridge A.K., Janssen A.W., Peijnenburg K.T.C.A. 2016. Revision of the genus Cuvierina Boas, 1886 based on integrative taxonomic data, including the description of a new species from the Pacific Ocean (Gastropoda, Thecosomata). ZooKeys 619: 1-12.
Go to website (URI)

Wall-Palmer D., Burridge A.K., Peijnenburg K.T.C.A., Janssen A.W., Goetze E., Kirby R., Hart M.B., Smart C.W. 2016. Evidence for the validity of Protatlanta sculpta (Gastropoda: Pterotracheoidea). Contributions to Zoology 85: 423-435.
Go to website (URI)

Becking L.E., Leeuw C. de, Knegt B., Maas D., Voogd, N.J. de, Syatna I., Abdunnur, Peijnenburg K.T.C.A. 2016. Highly divergent mussel lineages in isolated Indonesian marine lakes. PeerJ 4: e2496.
Go to website (DOI)


Journals SCI, peer-reviewed

Burridge A.K., Goetze E., Raes N., Huisman J., Peijnenburg K.T.C.A. 2015. Global biogeography and evolution of Cuvierina pteropods. BMC Evolutionary Biology 15: 1-16.
Go to website (URI)

Merckx V.S.F.T., Hendriks K.P., Beentjes K.K., Mennes C.B., Becking L.E., Peijnenburg K.T.C.A., Afendy A., Arumugam N., de Boer H., Biun A., Buang M.M., Chen P.-P., Chung A.Y.C., Dow R., Feijen F.A.A., Feijen H., Feijen-van Soest C, Geml J., Geurts R., Gravendeel B., Hovenkamp P., Imbun P., Ipor I., Janssens S.B., Jocqué M. Kappes H., Khoo E., Koomen P., Lens F., Majapun R.J., Morgado L.N., Neupane S., Nieser N., Pereira J.T., Rahman H., Sabran S., Sawang A., Schwallier R.M., Shim P.-S., Smit H., Sol N., Spait M., Stech M., Stokvis F., Sugau J.B., Suleiman M., Sumail S., Thomas D.C., van Tol J., Tuh F.Y.Y., Yahya B.E., Nais J., Repin R., Lakim M. & Schilthuizen M. 2015. Evolution of endemism on a young tropical mountain. Nature 524: 347-350.
Go to website (DOI)

Goetze E., Andrews K.R., Peijnenburg, K.T.C.A., Portner, E., Norton, E.L. 2015. Temporal stability of genetic structure in a mesopelagic copepod. PLOS ONE 10: e0136087.
Go to website (DOI)

Chapters in books

Pierrot-Bults A.C., Peijnenburg K.T.C.A. 2015. Pteropods. Encyclopedia of marine geosciences 1-10: Springer Science+Business Media, ISBN 978-94-007-6644-0.


Chapters in books

Janssen A.W., Peijnenburg K.T.C.A. 2014. Holoplanktonic Mollusca: development in the Mediterranean Basin during the last 30 million years and their future. 341-362: Springer Science+Business Media, Dordrecht.
Go to website (DOI)


Journals SCI, peer-reviewed

Becking L.E., Erpenbeck D., Peijnenburg K.T.C.A., Voogd N.J. de 2013. Phylogeography of the sponge Suberites diversicolor in Indonesia: insights into the evolution of marine lake populations. PLOS ONE 8: e75996.
Go to website (DOI)

Peijnenburg K.T.C.A., Goetze E. 2013. High evolutionary potential of marine zooplankton. Ecology and Evolution 3: 2765-2781.
Go to website (DOI)

Swierts T., Peijnenburg K.T.C.A., Leeuw C. de, Cleary D.F.R., Hornlein C., Setiawan E., Worheide G., Erpenbeck D., Voogd N.J. de 2013. Lock, stock and two different barrels: comparing the genetic composition of morphotypes of the Indo-Pacific sponge Xestospongia testudinaria. PLOS ONE 8: e74396.
Go to website (DOI)


Journals SCI, peer-reviewed

Luttikhuizen P.C., Drent J., Peijnenburg K.T.C.A., Veer H.W. van der, Johannesson K. 2012. Genetic architecture in a marine hybrid zone: comparing outlier detection and genomic clines analysis in the bivalve Macoma balthica. Molecular Ecology 21: 3048-3061.
Go to website (DOI)

Mariani S., Peijnenburg K.T.C.A., Weetman D. 2012. Independence of neutral and adaptive divergence in a low dispersal marine mollusc. Marine Ecology Progress Series 446: 173-187.
Go to website (DOI)


Journals SCI, peer-reviewed

Yebra L., Bonnet D., Harris R.P., Lindeque P.K., Peijnenburg K.T.C.A. 2011. Barriers in the pelagic: population structuring of Calanus helgolandicus and C. euxinus in European waters. Marine Ecology Progress Series 428: 135-149.
Go to website (DOI)


Journals SCI, peer-reviewed

Luttikhuizen P.C., Campos J., Bleijswijk J. van, Peijnenburg K.T.C.A., Veer H.W. van der 2008. Phylogeography of the common shrimp, Crangon crangon (L.) across its distribution range. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 46: 1015-1030.
Go to website (DOI)


Journals SCI, peer-reviewed

Peijnenburg K.T.C.A., Fauvelot C., Breeuwer A.J., Menken S.B.J. 2006. Spatial and temporal genetic structure of the planktonic Sagitta setosa (Chaetognatha) in European seas as revealed by mitochondrial and nuclear DNA markers. Molecular Ecology 15: 3319-3338.
Go to website (DOI)


Journals SCI, peer-reviewed

Papadopoulos L.N., Peijnenburg K.T.C.A., Luttikhuizen P.C. 2005. Phylogeography of the calanoid copepods Calanus helgolandicus and C. euxinus suggests Pleistocene divergences between Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Black Sea populations. Marine Biology 147: 1353-1365.
Go to website (DOI)

Peijnenburg K.T.C.A., Haastrecht E.K. van, Fauvelot C. 2005. Present-day genetic composition suggests contrasting demographic histories of two dominant chaetognaths of the North-East Atlantic, Sagitta elegans and S. setosa. Marine Biology 147: 1279-1289.
Go to website (DOI)


Journals SCI, peer-reviewed

Peijnenburg K.T.C.A., Pierrot-Bults A.C. 2004. Quantitative morphological variation in Sagitta setosa Muller, 1847 (Chaetognatha) and two closely related taxa. Bijdragen tot de Dierkunde 73: 305-315.

Peijnenburg K.T.C.A., Breeuwer J.A.J., Pierrot-Bults A.C., Menken S.B.J. 2004. Phylogeography of the planktonic chaetognath Sagitta setosa reveals isolation in European seas. Evolution 58: 1472-1487.



Katja Peijnenburg received a prestigious Vidi grant from the Dutch Science Foundation (NWO) to study the evolution of planktonic gastropods in an acidifying ocean.

Read more on our Dutch newssite.

TV item 'Vroege Vogels' on chaetognaths (Sept 30, 2014 - In Dutch)

Blog about AMT expedition 2014

High evolutionary potential of marine zooplankton
(photo: Peijnenburg/Goetze)

Katja's Kriebelbeestjes Blog (in Dutch)
(illustration: Pia Drent)

Press releases Katja Peijnenburg

Kennismaking met de wonderlijke wereld van plankton (in Dutch)
(photo: Jan van Arkel)

AMT22 ocean expedition (in Dutch)