The decline of Turritella gastropods in the Adriatic Sea

Master Thesis subject (30 ECTS)
Turritella communis used to be an abundant species in muddy substrates in the Northern Adriatic Sea. Since the 1970s, its abundance is declining, a pattern reported also from other areas of its distributional range in Europe. In the context of the project “Historical ecology of the Northern Adriatic Sea” (, sediment cores have been collected at several stations. Age models are available for all cores. Nutrients and pollutants have been measured and time-series of other environmental variables (sea surface temperature, Po river discharge, hypoxic events) are available from the literature. This is a unique context to test hypotheses on the causes of the demise of such an abundant and characteristic species and more generally to detect causes of change of benthic assemblages in historical times. The candidate will have access to already available abundance data. S/he will measure Turritella sizes to detect patterns in juvenile vs. adult abundance; then compare data among cores and look for correlations with environmental variables.
Knowledge of the statistical programming environment R.
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Martin Zuschin (University of Vienna)
Reference Number: RP-48951