Evolutionary Biomaterials Group

Jan Michels

1997-2003, university studies in Marine Biology, Zoology, and Marine Chemistry at the Christian-Albrechts-Universität (CAU) in Kiel, Germany; 2003, diploma in Marine Biology, Zoology, and Marine Chemistry (diploma thesis: “Significance of morphology and stability of the mandibular gnathobases for the diet of Antarctic copepod species”); 2003-2007, PhD student at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, Germany; 2008, PhD in Marine Biology from the CAU (PhD thesis: “Significance of zooplankton for cryo-pelago-benthic coupling in the Southern Ocean”); 2008-, postdoc at the Department of Zoology: Functional Morphology and Biomechanics, Zoological Institute, Christian-Albrechts-Universität, Kiel, Germany

Contact: phone: +49 431 8804511; e-mail: jmichels@zoologie.uni-kiel.de


Scientific career:

2008, researcher at the Alfred Wegener Institute; 2008-, researcher at the Department of Zoology: Functional Morphology and Biomechanics,Zoological Institute, Christian-Albrechts-Universität, Kiel, Germany



PlanktonTech (www.planktontech.org), work package 2.2.3: “Analysis of the mechanical challenges posed by marine predators”
PlanktonTech is a Virtual Institute founded by the Helmholtz Society, the largest science organisation in Germany. It investigates the evolutionary development and the function of lightweight structures in marine plankton organisms by applying newest microscopy techniques and modern computer engineering. The main focus of PlanktonTech is on the fascinating shells of diatoms and radiolarians, which are highly stable and consist of a relatively low amount of material at the same time. The results will be used to create precise 3D models of the respective structures and subsequently analyse them with different calculation and optimisation methods, allowing the investigation of the structures´ biomechanical qualities and the evolution of the studied organisms. The 3D data will also be used for the development and improvement of lightweight constructions in industrial applications.
Within the work package 2.2.3 the feeding structures of zooplankton organisms, which feed on diatoms, are analysed with respect to their material composition and biomechanical properties. The goal is to assess the forces generated by these feeding structures and causing mechanical damage of the diatom shells during the feeding process. In this context the analyses focus on the gnathobases of copepods, and on the mandibles and the gastric mills of krill, as these organisms belong to the dominant zooplankton taxa in nearly all ocean areas worldwide and thus play important roles in the marine planktonic food web.

Research interests:

Functional morphology and biomechanics of crustaceans; material composition and properties of crustacean mouthparts; ecology of Antarctic zooplankton and sea ice meiofauna; cryo-pelagic and pelago-benthic coupling in the Southern Ocean; electron microscopy; confocal laser scanning microscopy




Michels, J., Vogt, J., Gorb, S.N. (2012) Tools for crushing diatoms – opal teeth in copepods feature a rubber-like bearing composed of resilin. Scientific Reports 2, 465

Michels, J., Gorb, S.N. (2012) Detailed three-dimensional visualization of resilin in the exoskeleton of arthropods using confocal laser scanning microscopy. Journal of Microscopy 245, 1-16

Michels, J., Schnack-Schiel, S.B., Pasternak, A., Mizdalski, E., Isla, E., Gerdes, D. (2012) Abundance, population structure and vertical distribution of dominant calanoid copepods on the eastern Weddell Sea shelf during a spring phytoplankton bloom. Polar Biology 35, 369-386

Bechstein, K., Michels, J., Vogt, J., Schwartze, G.C., Vogt, C. (2011) Position-resolved determination of trace elements in mandibular gnathobases of the Antarctic copepod Calanoides acutus using a multimethod approach. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry 399, 501-508

Michels, J., Büntzow, M. (2010) Assessment of Congo red as a fluorescence marker for the exoskeleton of small crustaceans and the cuticle of polychaetes. Journal of Microscopy 238, 95-101

Pasternak, A., Hagen, W., Kattner, G., Michels, J., Graeve, M., Schnack-Schiel, S.B. (2009) Lipid dynamics and feeding of dominant Antarctic calanoid copepods in the eastern Weddell Sea in December. Polar Biology 32, 1597-1606

Michels, J., Dieckmann, G.S., Thomas, D.N., Schnack-Schiel, S.B., Krell, A., Assmy, P., Kennedy, H., Papadimitriou, S., Cisewski, B. (2008) Short-term biogenic particle flux under late spring sea ice in the western Weddell Sea. Deep-Sea Research II 55, 1024-1039

Kiko, R., Michels, J., Mizdalski, E., Schnack-Schiel, S.B., Werner, I. (2008) Living conditions and abundance of surface and sub-ice layer fauna in pack ice of the western Weddell Sea during early summer. Deep-Sea Research II 55, 1000-1014

Schnack-Schiel, S.B., Michels, J., Mizdalski, E., Schodlock, M., Schröder, M. (2008) Composition and community structure of zooplankton during ISPOL – with emphasis on calanoid copepods. Deep-Sea Research II 55, 1040-1055

Schnack-Schiel, S.B., Haas, C., Michels, J., Mizdalski, E., Schünemann, H., Steffens, M., Thomas, D.N. (2008) Copepods in sea ice of the western Weddell Sea during austral spring 2004. Deep-Sea Research II 55, 1056-1067

Michels, J. (2007) Confocal laser scanning microscopy: using cuticular autofluorescence for high resolution morphological imaging in small crustaceans. Journal of Microscopy 227, 1­­-7

Carpenter, L.J., Wevill, D.J., Palmer, C.J., Michels, J. (2007) Depth profiles of volatile iodine and bromine-containing halocarbons in coastal Antarctic waters. Marine Chemistry 103, 227-236

Michels, J., Schnack-Schiel, S.B. (2005) Feeding in dominant Antarctic copepods – does the morphology of the mandibular gnathobases relate to diet? Marine Biology 146, 483-495