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Tim Wollesen

Department of Integrative Zoology
UZA1 Althanstraße 14, 1090 Vienna, Austria

phone: +43 1 4277 76313
fax: +43 1 4277 876313
mail: tim.wollesen@univie.ac.at


I am interested in the evolution, development, and function of central nervous systems (CNS) and sensory organs in the Lophotrochozoa. To this end, the nervous systems of mollusks are ideal study objects since they are centralized to different degrees. Cephalopods exhibit highly complex multi-lobed brains compared to the rather simple CNS of the closely related gastropods and scaphopods. To date, little is known about the molecular genetic and physiological underpinnings of their CNS formation and maturation. Insights into these processes might contribute to our understanding on how these complex brains evolved.

In my post-doctoral project I contribute to the above-mentioned questions by applying gene expression analyses, immunochemistry combined with confocal laserscanning microscopy, and neuronal tracing techniques. My "champion organism" is the tiny pygmy squid Idiosepius notoides which lives in the sea grass beds of Eastern Australia. Development from the fertilized egg to the hatching squid takes only approximately ten days. Pygmy squids are voracious top-level predators which can endure rough environmental conditions such as fluctuations of temperature, oxygen, and salinity levels.

Currently, my research also focusses on the development and evolution of other molluscan taxa and developmental stages of the polyplacophoran Acanthochitona crinita, the basal bivalve Nucula tumidula, the scaphopod Antalis entalis, as well as the cephalopod Octopus vulgaris are investigated.

Please contact me if you´re interested in my work and would like to do your Master- or Ph.D. thesis in our lab.


Wollesen T. Cephalopoda. In: Structure and evolution of invertebrate nervous systems (eds. Schmidt-Rhaesa, A., Harzsch, S. and Purschke, G.: Oxford University Press (in press).

Wollesen T, Rodríguez Monje SV, McDougall C, Degnan BM & Wanninger A. 2015 The ParaHox gene Gsx patterns the apical organ and central nervous system but not the foregut in scaphopod and cephalopod mollusks. EvoDevo 2015, DOI: 10.1186/s13227-015-0037-z. available online

Wanninger A, Wollesen T. 2015. Mollusca (chapter 7); p.103-153; in: Evolutionary Developmental Biology of Invertebrates, Vol. 2 Lophotrochozoa (Spiralia) (ed. Wanninger, A), 2015, Springer, Wien, Heidelberg, New York.

Wollesen T, Rodríguez-Monje SV, Todt C, Degnan BM, Wanninger A. 2015. Ancestral role of Pax2/5/8 in molluscan brain and multimodal sensory system development. BMC Evolutionary Biology 15: 231.

Scherholz M, Redl E, Wollesen T, Todt C, Wanninger A. 2015. From complex to simple: myogenesis in an aplacophoran mollusk reveals key traits in aculiferan evolution. BMC Evolutionary Biology 15: 201.

Fritsch M, Wollesen T, de Oliveira A, Wanninger A. 2015. Unexpected co-linearity of Hox gene expression in an aculiferan mollusk. BMC Evolutionary Biology 15: 151.

Wollesen T,  McDougall C, Degnan BM, Wanninger A. 2014. POU genes are involved in the formation of individual ganglia of the cephalopod central nervous system. EvoDevo 5: 41.

Scherholz M, Redl E, Wollesen T, Todt C, Wanninger A. 2013. Aplacophoran molluscs evolved from ancestors with polyplacophoran-like features. Current Biology 23: 2130-2134.

Wollesen T, Sukhsangchan C, Seixas P, Nabhitabhata J, Wanninger A. 2012. Analysis of neurotransmitter distribution in brain development of benthic and pelagic octopod cephalopods. Journal of Morphology

Wollesen T, Nishiguchi MK, Seixas P, Degnan BM, Wanninger A. 2012. The VD1/RPD2 α1-neuropeptide is highly expressed in the brain of cephalopod mollusks. Cell and Tissue Research

Albertin CB, … Wollesen T, Guojie Zhang, Ragsdale CW. 2012. Cephalopod genomics: A plan of strategies and organization. Standards in Genomic Sciences 7: 175-188.

Merkel J, Wollesen T, Lieb B, Wanninger A. 2012. Spiral cleavage and early embryology of a loxosomatid entoproct and the usefullness of spiralian apical cross patterns for phylogenetic inferences. BMC Developmental Biology 12: 11

Kristof A, Wollesen T, Maiorova AS, Wanninger A. 2011. Cellular and muscular growth patterns during sipunculan development. Journal of Experimental Zoology (Molecular and Developmental Evolution) 316: 227-240

Wollesen T, Degnan BM, Wanninger A. 2010. Expression of serotonin (5-HT) during CNS development of the cephalopod mollusk, Idiosepius notoides. Cell and Tissue Research 342: 161-178

Wollesen T, Cummins SF, Degnan BM, Wanninger A. 2010. FMRFamide gene and peptide expression during CNS development of the cephalopod mollusk, Idiosepius notoides. Evolution and Development 12: 113-130 [cover image]

Wollesen T, Loesel R, Wanninger A. 2009. Pygmy squids and giant brains: Mapping the complex cephalopod CNS by phalloidin staining of vibratome sections and whole-mount preparations. Journal of Neuroscience Methods 179: 63-67

Kristof A, Wollesen T, Wanninger A. 2008. Segmental mode of neural patterning in Sipuncula. Current Biology 18: 1129-1132 [cover image]

Wollesen T, Loesel R, Wanninger A. 2008. FMRFamidergic immunoreactivity in the central nervous system of the cephalopod mollusc Idiosepius notoides. Acta Biologica Hungarica 59 (Suppl.): 111-116

Wollesen T, Wanninger A, Klussmann-Kolb A. 2008. Myogenesis in Aplysia californica (Cooper, 1863) (Mollusca, Gastropoda, Opisthobranchia) with special focus on muscular remodeling during metamorphosis. Journal of Morphology 269: 776-789 [cover image]

Wollesen T, Wanninger A, Klussmann-Kolb A. 2007. Neurogenesis of the cephalic sensory organs of Aplysia californica. Cell and Tissue Research 330: 361-379


2001-2006: Student of Biology, J. W. Goethe-University Frankfurt a.M., Germany

2007-2010: Ph.D.-Thesis “Anatomy, ontogeny, and evolution of the cephalopod central nervous system: An immunohistochemical approach combined with gene expression analyses” at the University of Copenhagen (KU), Denmark

2011: Laboratory of Prof. Degnan, University of Queensland, Australia

2011 (ongoing): Laboratory of Prof. Wanninger, University of Vienna, Austria


2005: Visiting student, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, USA

2006: Visiting student, laboratory of Assoc. Prof. Wanninger at the KU, Denmark

2007: Visiting scientist, laboratory of Prof. Nishiguchi, New Mexico State University, USA

2008 and 2009: Visiting scientist, laboratory of Prof. Degnan, University of Queensland, Australia PH.D.-COURSES ABROAD

2007: Comparative embryology of marine invertebrates course, Friday Harbor Laboratories, University of Washington, Seattle, USA

2009: Neural Systems & Behavior, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, USA


  • Biological Oceanography Laboratory Banyuls-sur-mer (University Pierre et Marie Curie, France)
  • Marine Biological Station Roscoff (University Pierre et Marie Curie, France) - Smithsonian Marine Station (Fort Pierce, USA)
  • Moreton Bay Research Station (University of Queensland, Australia)
  • Friday Harbor Laboratories (University of Washington)
  • Marine Biological Laboratory (Woods Hole, USA) - Heron Island Research Station (University of Queensland, Australia)


2007-2015:  Tutor in the courses

  • Organismernes Diversitet (basic Zoology part)
  • Evolutionary Comparative Zoology (advanced)
  • Morphology of Invertebrates at the University of Copenhagen


  • Lecturer in the course Baupläne der Tiere (basic Zoology part) at the University of Vienna
  • Lecturer in the course Fluoreszenzfärbung, Konfokalmikroskopie und computergestützte 3D-Rekonstruktion at the University of Vienna
  • Lecturer in the course Animal Gene Expression at the University of Vienna
  • Supervision of guest scientists, Ph.Ds., master students, high school students 


3.-05.2005: Grant from the German Academic Exchange Service for my stay at the University of Miami, USA

01.–03.2006: European Union-funded SYNTHESYS-grant for my stay at the KU

09.2006: Grant from the Vereinigung von Freunden und Förderern der J.W. Goethe University Frankfurt a. M. for attending a meeting and a workshop

06.2007: Grant from the Georgia State University for attending a symposium

05.2007-04.2010: Ph.D. fellowship from the Ph.D. School of the Faculty of Natural Sciences, KU

06.–07.2007: Grant from the Friday Harbor Laboratories

06.–08.2009: Burroughs Wellcome Fund and Neural Systems & Behavior Course Endowed Scholarship Fund

07.2010: Travel grant from Lundbeck Fonden and Unitas Malacologica

04.2012: ASSEMBLE (Association of European Marine Biological Laboratories) travel grant for a research stay at the Station Biologique Roscoff in Roscoff, France in July 2012

09.-10.2014: STSM (CephsInAction) travel grant for a research stay in Vigo, Spain.


Manuscripts reviewed for Aquatic Biology, Journal of Morphology, Zoomorphology, JEZ Part B: Molecular and Developmental Evolution, Evolution and Development, Frontiers in Zoology, Zoological Letters, Cell & Tissue Research, Developmental Biology, Biological Bulletin

Associate Editor for Organisms, Diversity & Evolution (Remaining Protostomia)




Department of
Integrative Zoology
University of Vienna
Althanstraße 14
A-1090 Vienna, Austria
University of Vienna | Universitätsring 1 | 1010 Vienna | T +43-1-4277-0