Kinorhyncha - a poorly known and neglected animal phylum

Mapping the mud dragons of Norway

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The biodiversity of the invertebrate phylum Kinorhyncha (Mud dragons) in Norwegian waters is very poorly known. The project aims at surveying the Norwegian coast for Kinorhyncha, and we expect as a rough estimate up to 20 species to be catalogued and described from Norway. Given the scarce knowledge of Kinorhyncha in Norway and in general it is very likely that several species new to Norway and to science will be discovered.

This project will bring together the expertise in molecular taxonomy and systematics available at the Natural History Museum, Oslo, and in Kinorhyncha biology and taxonomy available at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin, Germany, and the Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen.

In the course of the project we will collect representative sea sediment samples for subsequent morphological and molecular analyses. We will apply state-of-the-art morphological species identification methods for selected genera (using keys from earlier studies on Kinorhyncha from other areas) along with advanced molecular approaches, aiming at developing towards a comprehensive picture of the Norwegian Kinorhyncha fauna of mainly in the intertidal but, if possible, also in the deep-sea sediments.


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The project "Kinorhyncha - a poorly and neglected animal phylum" is funded for 2013-2014 by the artsprosjektet managed by Artsdatabanken (The Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre).

Major objectives

The project has 5 major objectives:

  • To collect intertidal (and to some extent deep-sea) sediment samples
  • To undertake morphological species determination, and identification of the species likely to be new to Norway and/or science
  • To characterize molecularly the Kinorhyncha species detected in Norwegian waters;
  • To provide state-of-the-art descriptions of newly discovered species;
  • To establish a comprehensive overview on the biodiversity and geographic distribution of the Norwegian Kinorhyncha fauna.


The phylum Kinorhyncha is consisting of small (up to ca. 1mm) free-living species. They are globally distributed and usually occur in benthic marine habitats from the intertidal (Zelinka 1928) to the deep sea (Meadows et al. 1994). Some 150 – 200 species have been reported so far (Neuhaus & Higgins 2002; Neuhaus 2003).
Studies on the biodiversity of Kinorhyncha have focused on the Mediterranean (Zelinka 1928) and the North American coast (see Higgins 1977, 1983, 1990). However, very little is known about the Norwegian Kinorhyncha fauna. Some few species have been reported from Byfjord, Bergen (Schepotieff 1907 a, b; Remane 1936; for review see Higgins 1983), and two species have been recently described from the Svalbard archipelago by Adrianov (1995).

Project progression


Selected literature

Master student

Espen Strand is a master student at the University of Oslo, and is supervised by Lutz Bachmann and Jonas Thormar. The preliminary working title of his thesis is "The Kinorhyncha of Southern Norway"

Tags: Kinorhyncha
Published Apr. 12, 2022 8:26 AM - Last modified Apr. 12, 2022 11:05 AM